Meet Gian Mario Maggio, newly appointed Director for our Co-location Center South (Milan, Italy)
In your opinion what are the two or three main challenges that Europe’s manufacturing industry need to overcome in the coming years?
I would like to focus on the rapid technological acceleration that will drive the transformation of the manufacturing sector in Europe. In this context, industrial systems are increasingly connected through Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) systems needed for enabling the Industry 4.0 paradigm.
Consequently, cybersecurity will be a major challenge, as the IoT network increases the “attack surface” and may result in security vulnerability issues that can heavily hurt production systems. This is true especially in the current highly fragmented IoT standardization landscape.
Another important challenge will be the creation of secure and trusted European data spaces for the manufacturing sector in order to foster data-driven innovation and the development of the corresponding business ecosystems. In this respect, a number of barriers, including regulatory hurdles, need to be overcome in order to unleash the full potential of industrial data. This represents a strategic area where Europe has the potential to play a leading role globally, provided that can be flanked by a winning strategy regarding data platforms for industrial data, a space typically dominated by companies outside Europe (e.g. USA), as far as private data are concerned.
Last, but not least, I would like to point out skills, in particular digital skills, as one of the main challenges that the European manufacturing industry is facing, especially in relation to SMEs that represent the fabrics of the manufacturing sector in Europe, in order to reap the benefits of the digital transformation.
In the light of these challenges, what concretely can an organisation like of EIT Manufacturing bring?
EIT Manufacturing is uniquely positioned as a catalyst for the modernization of the European manufacturing industry. This is especially relevant for Southern Europe, being characterized by a large number of SMEs in a transition towards Industry 4.0. In this respect, EIT Manufacturing can act as a platform for open innovation and, as such, accelerate the introduction of key enabling technologies like 5G, AI, Digital Twins as well as innovative manufacturing processes to improve the whole manufacturing value chain.
This is also an opportunity for innovative companies such as start-ups or scale-ups to bring mature solutions to the market with the support of EIT Manufacturing.
Likewise, EIT Manufacturing can play an important role to enable the up-skilling and re-skilling of the manufacturing workforce, but also in terms of inspiring and educating the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs.
We are currently amidst the biggest sanitary and financial crisis Europe and the world has faced since the Second World War. According to you, what role can the manufacturing industry play in the Covid-19 recovery?
The Covid-19 crisis has taught the European manufacturing industry several lessons – the questions is whether we are ready to learn from these lessons.
First, the global supply chains is now being questioned, in particular if there are no other alternatives.
Second, the concept of resilience is being embedded in major initiatives and policies at European level. To answer to these new demands, the European industry necessitates higher levels of manufacturing agility and flexibility to cope with existing and future challenges. A noticeable example has been the rapid conversion of manufacturing plants to produce ventilators – we will need more of such initiatives.
Third, the crisis has also accelerated the digital transformation of the industry, spotlighting weaknesses and making the need for change to Industry 4.0 more evident.
The risk I currently see, especially if the effects of the pandemic are tackled with a short-term approach, is that businesses may be tempted to just quickly get “back-to-normal” using the old methods, until the next crisis hits us. On the contrary, we should take this as a great opportunity for re-thinking and re-designing the organization of the whole manufacturing value chain in Europe.
Is there a specific manufacturing or manufacturing related invention that you would have liked to invent yourself?
Personally, I have always been fascinated by the Additive Manufacturing paradigm and, in particular 3D printing. Why? Because additive manufacturing is a typical example of “disruptive innovation”, which has the potential to revolutionize the whole manufacturing industry and the corresponding business models. A recent and exciting twist of this technology is the application of AI for designing new alloys for 3D printing, which again is opening new frontiers.