The hybridization between the academic world and the business sector is as fruitful as ever.
This is a great achievement ‒ after years of unjust separation, with on the one hand companies in need of direct feedback to answer contingent questions, and on the other hand the university research sector subject to validation and publication processes on a multi-year scale ‒ which, despite different needs, has been able to combine opportunities in very different areas, such as the technical-industrial, sports or human resources sectors.
Concrete examples were presented by researchers from Brescia and Milan, in tandem with representatives of companies, at the round table "Research enters the company" ‒ live streaming on the university's social networks.
Paola Zini, researcher at Università Cattolica, and Raffaella Bianchi, Human Capital Director of Streparava SpA, an international player in the automotive sector, illustrated the results of the research and the practices derived on the issues of work-life balance and its effects on personal, family and corporate well-being.
"The research has photographed which forms of reconciliation are already activated in our territory and what are the effects on personal, family and work level. From the interviews with Dr. Bianchi and from the questionnaires administered to employees, a positive picture emerged that qualifies Streparava as a forward-looking and family friendly company" ‒ said Zini. "The choice should no longer be between family or work, to do so we must overcome the feminization of the problem and it is a co-responsibility of families, businesses, society and politics".
In concrete terms, what actions have been put in place? "The premise is that we believe that the personal life of workers enters the company together with them, and that for this reason the well-being of the employee also has an impact on productivity" ‒ Bianchi stressed. "Several initiatives have been put in place and implemented in light of what the Cattolica research has revealed: from the flexibility of schedules for all employees in the administrative area (so not only women and mothers, but also young people and men) that helps to manage the family or their interests; remote working, which before the pandemic did not exist and today is a structured reality with 100 enabled users; up to moments of one to one listening aimed at listening to the needs, informative meetings on nutrition issues or the establishment of groups of runners and the soccer team of the company to promote physical as well as mental wellbeing".
This is an important cultural shift for the company, which also has to do with the concept of trust in its employees and with assigning activities aimed more at achieving a goal than a daily amount of hours. "This is why research and business must become effective partners to grow. Research is important for the emergence of needs and their proper analysis. This allows to start very targeted and therefore more successful projects."
The key word is therefore co-design. In other words, letting companies enter the university and vice versa, cultivating the courage and languages of contamination, learning to read specific needs in order to build effective answers together.
This is also demonstrated by the fruit of the collaboration between the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences, represented by Professor Claudio Giannetti, and the company Serioplast, a manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging for the consumer goods market.
"We have developed sensors capable of detecting and measuring in real time any leakage of LPG gas during the production and filling phases of cylinders, thanks to basic research and spectroscopies using lasers. We realized that these molecules absorb light in a particular way and then we designed a sensor that would solve the problem" – explained Giannetti. "Applying our basic knowledge we solved a real problem, with a double advantage: the company paid a research grant allowing a student to focus his research on this, on the other hand, through the University, the company had access to preliminary tests of the product at much lower costs than those of the market".
"The first point is to overcome the ideological barriers that see business and academia as two separate worlds, and to understand how the students' paths can intersect with the company's needs in order to create a win-win mechanism" – said Massimo Rosati, Director of Research and Development at Serioplast. "In recent years the dialogue has improved a lot, creating models that hybridize basic research and business, ecosystems that implement a shared value even if not necessarily in the short term".
Finally, Chiara D'Angelo from the Faculty of Psychology and Marcello Visconti, Federal Advisor for the athletes component of the Italian Handball Federation (FIGH) presented the results of research on how to support athletes in their high-level and youth sports careers.
"What emerged from the research was the difference between senior and junior categories, as well as an awareness of the onerous commitments in the life of a student or working athlete. This has resulted in new promotional policies and support activities that precede, and in some way accompany athletes, the transition phase to senior teams," Visconti said.
"Our basic research was applied to psychological processes in the context of a very particular career, which begins in adolescence and ends around 35-40 years of age, thus resulting concentrated in a phase characterized by the identity development of the person" ‒ illustrated D'Angelo. "Interviews with 30 male and female athletes, in the 17-35 age bracket, made it possible to retrace or prefigure the competitive pressures often experienced far from the family context, or the psychological weight of the choice between a sports career and academic training after graduation".
An answer in this sense is provided by the Dual Career program, proposed by Università Cattolica, which provides support to over 70 student-athletes enrolled in all faculties of the University with scholarships in collaboration with the University Sports Centre (CUS), specific tutorship to plan exams, reconciling study hours with training and competitions.
During the morning, the round table was preceded by the initiatives promoted by the three faculties for high school students.
The Graduate School of Environmental Studies proposed the workshop "At stake for the future. Sustainability in the city", a team challenge where students were involved to explore the perspective of sustainability in a playful-interactive form, moving from the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
And that's not all: using a new neuroscientific tool developed by the Faculty of Psychology, young people tested their propensity for internet addiction and "gambling" behaviour; while the workshop "Why do we follow the trail or go against the tide?" analysed the power of others over individual choices, explaining what mechanisms underlie the choice to conform or go against the tide.
Finally, the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences structured a journey, live streamed, through the physics and mathematics labs to show how to capture quantum effects using ultrafast spectroscopies and listen to the sound of gravitational waves.