Yet It Moves

Written by  Gian Paolo Barbieri
Notes on the progress of Ferrara's planned Technological Park.
For almost two years now work has been continuing on the construction of a Technological Park in Ferrara. The private and public bodies that are at work on this project (the Town Council of Ferrara; the Consorzio Ferrara Ricerche; the University of Ferrara; the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara; and many other business concerns and service companies) are trying to encourage the emergence from below of a series of projects onto which they can graft the operative, research and financial resources required to bring these projects to a successful conclusion.

Project ideas are assessed solely on the basis of their technical qualities and economic feasibility. In the agricultural-food production sector - one of the Ferrara area's outstanding performers - an examination of the many projects suggested has made it possible to identify strong candidates for cooperative action in research projects regarding:

a) the genetic engineering of plants with a view to obtaining strains capable of resisting fungal and bacterial diseases;
b) the production and utilisation of insects in an integrated biological struggle against pests;
c) a structured analytical laboratory study of fungicide residues in fruit.

Following talks with the interested parties it was decided to proceed with the assessment of an integrated project with an eye to comparison and collaboration with foreign partners.
Many of the projects submitted to the Park involved the creation of multimedia instruments for study and research in art, culture, and medicine. The Park is co-operating with various university faculties and specialized companies in order to unify methodological elements (the construction of hypertexts and the integration of text, video and audio) and technological aspects (acquiring and processing the information) while conserving the specific nature of the content and the market targets. If this unification can be achieved then it will be possible to concentrate efforts on a group of parallel projects.

The work carried out in recent months has led to the emergence of a fact that non-specialists were wholly unaware of: Ferrara has a virtually unique concentration of structures active in the field of acoustics.
With this small but highly compact scientific community in mind the Technological Park has committed itself to the establishment of a single headquarters in the Faculty of Engineering along with the construction of an anechoic chamber and other specialized laboratories.

Medical researchers have sent many proposals to the Park, which has made an enormous effort to identify where it might be possible to initiate co-operation between a group of local and external research structures. The Park is also promoting a major public and private investment effort for the construction of a computer network able to link up with the Internet.
At the same time, however, this network is intended to accustom a group of local structures to the idea of using new and more efficient forms of collaboration, both at a local level and with the "outside world". The civic networks will involve a large number of operators from public bodies, further education, voluntary organizations and industry.

But public attention must also be drawn to the Technological Park from time to time. The "Pensiero produttivo" (Productive Thinking) event, held for the first time last year, will be held once again in September of this year with more local, national and international exhibitors. A project of this size can hardly fail to lead to a cultural breakthrough, the secret of which lies essentially in the utilization of intangible resources such as the ingenuity and the spirit of enterprise of the local community.

In order to give these qualities free rein an awareness of a new "sense OF opportunity" must be encouraged on a political level as well as in areas such as management, echnology and economics.
The French Minister for Scientific Research likes to repeat that «You can't have a Technological Park by decree: you have to deserve one»; it seems to me that Ferrara is doing a lot to become one of those cities who deserve one.