19 February 2024
The CTNA at the A&T – Automation & Testing Fair in Turin
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The CTNA participated and sponsored one of the events scheduled at the 18th edition of the A&T (Automation & Testing) Fair which was held from 14 to 16 February at the Oval Lingotto in Turin www.aetevent.com .

A&T, in line with the intentions of the organizers, took place as an “inclusive narrative of the main innovations for the Italian industrial panorama”, with specific focuses on Intelligent Factory, Intralogistics, Additive Manufacturing, Testing and Metrology, Microchips and Semiconductors. Furthermore, a special space has been reserved for artificial intelligence (AI), with a “house” dedicated to the latest generation AI applications and technologies for manufacturing and the supply chain .

In the program of the second day, the CTNA animated the event entitled “New opportunities for aerospace and avionics”. A session in which the five primary Italian districts together with three excellent SMEs described the strategies implemented by the territories to increase business in the industrial sector and seize new market opportunities.

The round table was moderated by Filomena Greco, journalist from Sole24ore.

At the beginning, Manila Marcuccio (National Aerospace Technology Cluster) contextualized the evolution of the role of the CTNA from its establishment to today, highlighting its nature and purposes of coordination and connection between the world of research, large companies, SMEs and start-ups and territories aimed at generating opportunities for technological and innovative development. This objective materializes with the ability to generate technological roadmaps shared at system level, through the ability to create an ecosystem that favors the identification of industrial and research partners and through the construction of aggregates of skills on a national scale that are in agreement with European priorities.

The great fragmentation of the Italian industrial system in fact leads to poor knowledge and, therefore, poor valorisation of small and micro excellences at a territorial level. The CTNA, in line with its role and mission, addresses the issue by encouraging the aggregation of regional excellence at a national level, encouraging horizontal collaboration on different technologies, supply chains and specializations and, finally, encouraging the growth of start-ups .

Starting from the 10 founding members of 2012, the CTNA now has 22 members, including 15 districts from 14 Italian regions, 3 research centers (CNR, CIRA and INGV), AIAD and 2 large companies . This demonstrates – on the one hand – the relevance of the demand for coordination on the part of the aerospace aggregators, and – on the other hand – the ability of the CTNA to be the point of reference for the Districts, representing the regional ecosystem , for the world of research and for the supply chain of the two largest Italian aerospace companies (Leonardo and Avio Aero). In recent years, in fact, it has been evident how, in parallel with the growth of the aerospace sector in the districts and associations, the need has arisen for the territories interested in becoming part of the super-aggregation carried out by the CTNA.

In recent years, the CTNA has been and continues to be the main interlocutor for the aerospace sector, for the institutional system and for the government, participates in and supports the main initiatives promoted by the PNRR, measures dedicated to research and innovation, contributing to the directions of ecosystems and extended partnerships dedicated to aeronautics and space issues.

With participation in the European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) DAMAS, led by Leonardo, the CTNA will soon begin to contribute to digital innovation along the entire supply chain of the aerospace and automotive sectors, providing training and support services for networking and strengthening of territorial ecosystems.

After the introduction on the role of the CTNA, the representatives of 5 regional districts (DAP – Piedmont, LAC – Lombardy, DAC – Campania, UAC – Umbria and Co.Si.Mo – Veneto), together with 3 companies (Grammelot, MARE Engineering Group, Officina Stellare) told their success stories, highlighting how moments of crisis, such as the one the aeronautical sector is still experiencing, have represented opportunities to develop new projects or enter new markets. In fact, the current moment is highlighting an enormous ferment that enhances the skills of Italian businesses and professionals, but at the same time highlights the weaknesses of a system that needs wide-ranging policies and programs, sources of financing and of adequate staff.

Angelo Vallerani , President of the Lombardia Aerospace Cluster, underlined how many development opportunities there are today for the space sector thanks also to the PNRR, citing in particular the IRIDE constellation which has aggregated large companies, SMEs and researchers, with opportunities for upstream through the development of low orbit and down-stream satellites which enables countless applications. He also underlined the growing attention to the issues of space situational awareness, security (not only cyber security, but also security of space assets) and the reduction of environmental impacts or green transition . On the subject of aeronautics, it was specified that, while on the one hand cross-sectoral contamination, advanced air mobility, artificial intelligence for data analysis and digitalisation create interesting development opportunities, unfortunately there is a lack of policies, programs and initiatives integration that can make the Italian sector more competitive at a national level, enhancing the excellence that is now mainly applied at tier 2 or 3 level in the supply chain of large, often international, companies. Among the most critical points, in Lombardy as at a national level, are the lack of qualified personnel at all levels and the need to increase the sector’s capacity to respond to market needs (technology push vs market pull).

Federico Zoppas , President of the Co.Si.Mo consortium of Veneto, illustrated the path of the region and the Veneto district, among the most recent to emerge and join the CTNA. Compared to other territories, the aggregation matrix of the Veneto district is strongly linked to the industrial sector, which has then formed important alliances with the academic and research excellence of the area. The first Veneto Space Meeting event was launched in 2023, with the aim of making itself known and attracting investments, including foreign ones, to continue the race for national and international competitiveness, with great response from the public and operators. The second edition will be launched in May 2024 with an even richer program of debates and matchmaking events, also with a view to foreign incoming and a focus on hi-tech finance. The Consortium, after having worked on the construction of a regional ecosystem between companies, research and institutions, has recorded rapid growth in a short time and is now actively working to facilitate contact with the prime and customers of companies operating in the aerospace sector in this phase of transition between space economy and new space economy , encouraging spin-offs and spin-ins. The main objective for Veneto companies is to make themselves known in the markets, but also to build the foundations to operate in large international markets, starting from the topic of certifications and trying to acquire spaces in upstream services and downstream applications linked to the use of data , especially in agriculture, also considering the impact on the wine economy of the region, and to the monitoring of traffic and safety in navigation in the Adriatic Sea.

Gennaro Di Capua , representing the Campania Aerospace District (DAC) presented the point of view of one of the most historic and structured industrial systems in Italy in the railway and aerospace sectors. Technological development, new space and non-space applications and digitalisation have opened up new opportunities for development and exploitation of synergies between two similar sectors of aeronautics and space. At the same time, the growing competition and the aforementioned developments have required Campania players to change and innovate so as not to lose the positions acquired over time, especially in the fields of mechanical parts, construction of nano and microsatellites and the part of urban air mobility . It was highlighted that even Campania’s SMEs in the aeronautical sector are facing the effects of the sector crisis; in Campania, however – as in other southern regions – the PNRR provides for specific actions and funds to be exploited in the best possible way to diversify investments and markets. Finally, it was recalled that the District is committed to supporting the digitalisation of businesses and processes, using digital opportunities; this is also to address the issue of employee training, which in Campania as in the rest of the country is one of the critical points.

Daniele Tonti , President of the Umbria Aerospace Cluster, spoke about another side of national excellence, that of a small Italian region in which there is a lack of big players, but at the same time there is a consolidated industrial tradition, including in aerospace, with a presence as early as 1920. Currently the district brings together 40 small and medium-sized companies that manage to exploit their size and the lack of prime contractors by working on niches of excellence, with an innate flexibility and diversification. Furthermore, through the District, the entire territory has worked in a coordinated manner with the regional institutions to draft a strategic development plan which clearly indicates the priorities and directives. The results are evident: in 2023 the sector has already exceeded the turnover of the “pre-covid” period with growth which in the last 2-3 years has been at figures of 15-20% per year. To support growth and consolidate it, we need: funds and financing to make labor and capital intensive investments and staff already trained before joining the company, within which they will then be able to finalize training with specific skills.

After the presentation of the first four regional contexts, three stories of Italian excellence were presented which were able to seize the right opportunities for their positioning also in international markets and which demonstrated how diversified the Italian presence is in all areas of the aerospace sector.

Fulvia Quagliotti , President of the Piedmontese Aerospace District, summarizing the topics of the round table, confirmed that all the trends illustrated during the debate are also relevant for the Piedmontese sector, which has an even different history and tradition, connected to the automotive industry, but also very developed in aerospace with the presence of the two Italian prime companies Leonardo and Avio Aero.

In conclusion, the critical issues of the aerospace sector were summarized, mostly represented by the scarcity of funds and financing compared to the needs of the sector, by international competition – higher because foreign ecosystems are more aggregated and, often, better supported – and by lack of adequately trained staff. The critical issues must also be addressed by looking at the current challenges represented by green and digital evolution. The opportunities are given not only by the growth of the space economy and the various applications, but also by cross-sectoral contamination; therefore, the tools to be used to promote growth and competitiveness concern support for the mapping of skills and the creation of specific training paths, not only in higher education, but also at ITS level.