Global technology giant Accenture is supporting a business group in Milan that wants to turn Expo Milan - a universal exhibition where individual countries showcase themselves to the public - into a new innovation hub, or a mini Milanese Silicon Valley.
Milan-based Assolombarda (an organisation representing 5,000 local firms) believes that the Italian government should turn the €1.3 billion site that has been largely funded by the taxpayer into a new innovation hub and Accenture, one of the technology sponsors of Expo, is keen to get behind the idea.
Technology entrepreneurs within Assolombarda want the complex, situated 9km from the city centre, to become a tech centre that’s home to the R&D labs of multinational technology companies, local university research centres and as many technology startups as possible.
Gionata Tedeschi, MD of Accenture Italy, agreed that he would like to see Expo turned into a “district of innovation” with universities and innovation centres of companies side-by-side.
Local universities include Bocconi, which teaches business, economics and management, and the Politecnico di Milano, which teaches engineering.
It’s understood that other technology giants like Samsung and Telecom Italia share the same view.
Expo, first held in London in 1851, comprises of over exhibition units that are let out to over 100 nations, including the likes of Israel, Kazakstan, the UK and Ecuador. This year, the theme of Expo is sustainability and food.
The countries use the units scattered across the Expo site to promote what they are doing in the area of sustainability in a way that will encourage people to visit and businesses to invest. As many as nine million people visited the last Expo in Shanghai and Expo Milan is on target to attract double that, with nine million tickets already sold.
But what happens to the 1km2 site when Expo comes to an end on 31 October is still up for debate.
The site is well connected from both a transport and an internet perspective. Such features make it well suited for trialling smart city projects.
Guido Arnone, digital lead at Expo, said: “There is high infrastructure in the area. It’s well located because you can get here by underground, by train and it’s across three highways (Torino, Venice and the Lakes area).”
Another suggestion for the future use of Expo’s site is a shopping district.
A similar project is currently underway in East London where a corner of the Olympic Park is being turned into a tech cluster known as Here East.