Interview with Lorenzo De Michieli, Director of the IIT Technology Transfer
When did you join the world of IIT?
If I remember correctly, it was at the end of 2006. It was an empty structure but filled with contagious energy, the beginning of the construction of something new, professionally very interesting, and with great opportunities for those who became a part of it.
Who were your first colleagues?
I was in Giulio Sandini’s group; I had just completed my Ph.D. and, after leaving CNR, I decided to be a part of this new endeavor. I started working on a robotics project with a group of researchers who laid the foundations of today’s IIT: Lorenzo Natale, Giorgio Metta, Francesco Nori, Chiara Bartolozzi, among others. These professionals then developed a significant career path, becoming established scientists in the field of humanoid robotics. I have always followed a non-conventional career path, straddling research and business.
IIT was conceived as an innovative research center very different from similar structures already active in our country. Were you not afraid that tradition, still strongly supported by various academic and political circles in those years, could prevail, even opposing technology transfer?
Yes, at the beginning of our journey, there was that feeling because, despite the Institute’s mission regarding technology transfer being very clear, and with significant attention to this issue from the scientific leadership, it is evident that to put technology transfer into practice, you need something to offer. So, in the first years of IIT’s activity, we worked on concretizing research projects that could have an industrial outlet. During that period, Technology Transfer, following the research activity step by step, developed ideas and an organization to structure and operate, putting into practice the objectives identified by the IIT project. This way, the Institute demonstrated its innovative vocation in practice, leaving no room for uncertainty about its future.
How has IIT changed from its foundation to today?
It has changed a lot, certainly in terms of the presence of people. We have gone from the empty rooms of 2006 to the two thousand colleagues of today. Scientific research activities have firmly established themselves among the best at all levels. Technology transfer activities have delivered results superior to the European and American averages for these activities. IIT has kept most of the promises made at its inception and is an indisputable reference for its operational and strategic vision. In the picture of IIT in 2023, you can see it engaged in the challenge to support the excellent research results with the determination of Technology Transfer, making them widely available to the community.
What would you advise to a young researcher who joins IIT today?
It may sound banal, but the advice is to continue following their dreams with constancy and patience. In IIT, professional opportunities sooner or later materialize. Changes in our Institute are rapid and always contain a strong original and innovative component. In IIT, the commitment and perseverance of a young researcher are never in vain.