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Innovation, 100 projects from the MUSA labs for the Milan of the future

First report on the NRRP-funded ecosystem promoted by four universities with 26 partners

Redazione Open Innovation

Redazione Open Innovation

Regione Lombardia

An algorithm to identify Milan's hidden groundwater tables, artificial intelligence-based software to monitor online hate speech, a dashboard to better manage the potential of telemedicine, and a desealing project to use rainwater for agriculture and other purposes.

MUSA in numbers

These are just some of the research activities taking shape within MUSA (Multilayered Urban Sustainability Action), the project launched last year as part of the partnership between the University of Milan-Bicocca, the proposing body, the Politecnico di Milano, Bocconi University and the University of Milan, funded by the Ministry of Universities and Research within the NRRP with a total investment of 116 million euros.

A total of 973 researchers are working on the project, which involves 26 public and private organisations in more than 100 research areas. Of these researchers, 194 are new recruits, 55% are women and the average age is 32.

MUSA's first report was presented on the morning of 6 September in the Aula Magna of the University of Milan-Bicocca, in the presence of institutions - the Lombardy Region and the Municipality of Milan are partners - and the heads of the universities involved.

This was followed in the afternoon by a round table discussion with representatives from academia, science and business to explore the project's impact on the region, society and technology.

An innovative example of public-private partnership

"MUSA aims to have an impact, to create a sustainable and inclusive urban environment, where technology and research bridge inequalities, reduce emissions, create efficiencies and save resources. “A new ecosystem," stressed Giovanna Iannantuoni, Rector of the University of Milan-Bicocca and President of MUSA, "for urban regeneration and sustainability, dedicated to the Milan area, but which, thanks to the more than 100 initiatives already launched in this first year of activity, will generate solutions and innovations that can be applied at a regional and national level. MUSA is also an innovative model of public-private partnership, capable of creating value for the local area, the social fabric and the economy, as demonstrated by the 194 young researchers already recruited and the others to be recruited in the coming months. I am delighted with the results of this first year and all those at MUSA deserve my thanks for their commitment and passion”.

MUSA as a model of innovation

"MUSA is a project that looks far into the future, a project that will open up new perspectives and new scenarios. A project that will create environmental, economic and social value through laboratories, pilot plants and simulators.” explained Alessandra Gallone, Advisor at the Minister of Universities and Research. "The aim is to make this project a national and European model, focusing on environmental and social sustainability, promoting social inclusion, designing and implementing more circular production processes in key sectors such as green, design, fashion, luxury and wellness, as well as developing solutions for waste management and creating digital platforms for the collection and use of biomedical data.”

The Lombardy Region's Councillor for Universities, Research and Innovation, Alessandro Fermi, expressed his "great satisfaction" with "the presentation on the first year of MUSA". I was not in office when the project was launched, but I have watched it develop and grow and today I can only be proud of what has been done and confident of what will be done in the years to come. The numbers speak for themselves: almost a thousand researchers are working on this project and 55% of them are women. The combination of university and research always creates excellent opportunities, and in the Lombardy region this is happening increasingly more.” 

“Looking at the initiatives and activities launched in this first year, we can say without a doubt that MUSA is a valuable project, capable of inspiring and stimulating many researchers to find solutions to make our city, and cities in general, a more sustainable place to live, economically, environmentally and socially,” commented the Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala. “I am proud that the Municipality is actively involved in this project, because by working together, with the institutions and with private partners, Bicocca University, the Politecnico, Bocconi and the University of Milan are demonstrating that by joining forces, energy and minds, by sharing commitment and objectives, we can have a real positive, innovative and qualitative impact on the local area and on people's daily lives.”

Alessandro Spada, President of Assolombarda, was also enthusiastic about the project. "MUSA is a positive example of an ecosystem that is promoting urban regeneration and sustainability through the NRRP. It is an innovation accelerator located in the area with the highest national output, with 20% of research and development spending and 27% of innovative start-ups concentrated in Milan and Lombardy. Now action is needed,” Spada concluded, “to close the gaps that exist in international comparison. We are increasingly strengthening cooperation between the research world and the business system, with the aim, among other things, of promoting the development of skills in line with the needs of the labour market, which is a real emergency for companies".

The areas of research

The event was an opportunity to illustrate some of the research themes pursued during the first year of activity, including: 

- Urban regeneration
Using underground geothermal and photovoltaic energy to make Milan-Bicocca a zero-emissions campus. The University's Energy Transition Project was launched on 12 June and will be replicated in other areas of the city. Research is also underway into desealing patents for the use of rainwater in agriculture and other areas. Bocconi University's role is to assess the economic, social and environmental impact of these new urban regeneration systems. 

- Digitalisation
From smart and sustainable transport to health and green energy, the use of 5G technologies and artificial intelligence will enable the optimisation of Big Data capabilities to support, digitise and implement a range of useful services for citizens, such as telemedicine and Remote Monitoring for the frail. The project was coordinated by the State University of Milan. 

- Technological entrepreneurship
The synergy between academia and business is fundamental to MUSA's vision. Seventeen technology scouting activities involving the Politecnico di Milano and other universities were launched. The StartCup Lombardia project, promoted by the Lombardy Region and organised by the four MUSA universities, aims to support technological innovation and encourage the creation and development of new companies with high commercial potential. On 30 November and 1 December 2023, MUSA, with the support of the Lombardy Region and in collaboration with the PNI Cube association, will host the National Innovation Award in Milan, the national competition involving the winners of regional startup challenges.

- Sustainable innovation and living labs
MUSA also involves local citizens in its projects. The six Living Labs set up by the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Milan are an example of this fruitful coexistence. These research laboratories will improve the living conditions of citizens and the quality of the environment through interaction with different categories of users. 

- Social inclusion
The Human Hall is a true Rights Hub set up in partnership with businesses, the third sector and local institutions. Under the auspices of the State University of Milan, professors, researchers and doctoral students from various disciplines have launched 18 projects to monitor vulnerable groups, from foreigners to women victims of violence. In the same area, is the artificial intelligence-based software to monitor online hate speech. 

Also in the field of social inclusion are the Patti Digitali project for minors, in collaboration with the Municipality of Milan, and the B-Youth Forum, part of the Festival Generazioni, a research workshop organised by the University of Milan-Bicocca for young people aged 14-25 on the theme of participation in public space.

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