The FabSpace project aims at making universities open innovation centres for their region and improving their contribution to the socio-economic and environmental performance of societies.
Italy is no exception: the first Italian Fabspace opened one year after the 2016 launch of the Fabspace project. As for every Fabspace, the goal of the Italian structure was to act as an intermediary between the world of research and the students, the governmental and public entities, as well as the companies that are called upon to apply innovations by using open satellite data.
The objective of the Italian fabspace was also to stimulate local universities to become open innovation centers in the field of geoinformation, to attract new actors in Earth observation (EO) and finally to encourage the development of a new generation of digital companies and start-ups focused on EO, all in close collaboration with the ESA Business Incubation Center (ESA BIC).
Since 2017, a cooperation has been established with Lazio Innova (former BIC Lazio) which is the regional development agency of the Lazio area, in order to support awareness raising activities dedicated to geodata-driven innovation, which address young and experienced developers from the industry or from the academic research sector, as well as public administrations and civil society organisations. The EO LAB cluster (the Earth Observation Laboratory of the University of Rome Tor Vergata (ToR) under the coordination of Professor Fabio Del Frate from the Department of Civil Engineering and Computer Science Engineering, and Lazio Innova have been working for the potential fertilization of the Fabspace on other economic sectors of the region (i.e. environmental monitoring, precision farming, infrastructure surveillance). As a result and within the framework of Fabspace, Lazio Innova has organized many activities, including competitions for start-ups, hackathons, as well as events for students and researchers, with the aim of developing new products and services for markets including non-space sectors.
In the course of the Italian Fabspace project, other research centers joined the pioneer, thus expanding the FabSpace network in Italy: in particular the Cetemps of the University of L’Aquila, the ITHACA center of the Politecnico di Torino, the Department of Industrial and Computer Engineering of the University of Pavia, the TeleGIS laboratory of the University of Cagliari, and finally the European Institute for Technological Development in Venice.
It should be noted that the participation of the ToR to the Fabspace project increased ToR visibility among the Space community.
Fabspace ongoing collaborations
Some of the main collaborations established during the Fabspace project still continue. The collaboration between both the ToR University and Lazio Innova still exists, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, supporting business ideas based on EO data and geo-information from researchers and students and interacting with other local institutions to support EO data innovation uptake from satellite as well as from drones platform. Other ongoing collaborations happens with different research groups (for example, one of them was developed with the department of economics, in order to monitor via satellite images some economic changes like the impact of migrations on a country.)
The Italian Fabspace goals, tools and results are not only assessed during public fundings’ evaluations. The Fabspace has also supported the ToR University to answer calls from the business world. In 2019, a public call was issued by the Lazio Region: some european structural funds were made available for a family of projects presented by small companies which had to be selected and supervised scientifically and technically by universities. ToR replied in proposing to become the leading entity to drive the call: the university highlighted its Fabspace experience which drew on many relationships with small enterprises, as well as on continuous relationships between the companies and the universities. ToR won this competition and was assigned the role of a leader in June 2020. The university, which currently continues to interact with business entities as used to be the case during the Fabspace project, is currently starting to collaborate with companies in svereal new technology transfer projects.