Opening the new potential of the Gulf

Intesa Sanpaolo’s plans for a global circular economy are coming to life in Dubai, where demand for sustainable buildings and transport offers great opportunities for Italian start-ups



In the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, the ever-growing demand for innovative sustainable technology is enabling Italian start-ups, working in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo and Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, to make significant progress into some of the world’s most lucrative markets.

Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, whose mission is to invest in research projects and companies working at the frontiers of innovation, recently held an event in Dubai called Tech Mix. It enabled Intesa Sanpaolo-supported companies to meet local business leaders, many of whom have a brief to help develop sustainable technologies.

“It’s the first time we’ve created an event like this in the Middle East,” explains Mario Costantini, General Manager, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center. “I was curious to understand how business and the local community would react to this event, to the Italian start-ups.”

“We concentrated on the clean-tech and smart-mobility sectors, which are crucial for the redesign of urban cities and the circular economy. For us, innovation means moving towards greater prosperity, resilience, better health and social wellbeing. Our vision is technology for good and the circular economy is our trajectory.”


From left to right:
Maurizio Montagnese, Chairman, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center
Mauro Micillo, Head of the Corporate and Investment Banking Division of Intesa Sanpaolo and Chief Executive Officer of Banca IMI
Mario Costantini, General Manager, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center

The focus on sustainability was warmly received because it enabled the start-ups to parade technologies that could solve problems in the region

“This Tech Mix event is a brilliant platform for us to get to know more Italian start-ups,” says Natalia Sycheva, Manager – Entrepreneurship at Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We aim to source up to 75 per cent of our energy needs from clean energy sources by 2050. Public-sector effort is not enough to realise this vision; with the support and the collaboration of Italy’s business community, I think we can foster and bring this date even closer.”

Among the start-ups was Greenrail, which has developed an eco-sustainable railway sleeper. Each kilometre of railway line is able to reuse around 35 tons of recycled material. Also in attendance was Enerbrain, whose suite of innovations drastically reduces the energy consumption of large buildings, while improving the comfort for the occupants.

“Buildings use 40 per cent of the world’s energy. Our focus is specifically on air-conditioning, which is half of that energy. Dubai is a great spot, but buildings here use 80 per cent of their energy just for air-conditioning,” explains Giuseppe Giordano, CEO, Enerbrain. “The cost of energy is going up, so they really need us over here.”

Sustainable transport is another important area. “We have an ambitious yet achievable goal to get 42,000 electric vehicles on the streets of Dubai by 2030,” says Sycheva.

Among the companies hoping to fulfil that demand is Energica, a manufacturer of high-performing electric motorcycles. Its powerful machines are capable of maximum speeds of 240kph.

“People here are open-minded, they are technological, and we believe that here we can find the right financial partners, so we are here looking for investors,” says Andrea Vezzani, CFO, Energica.

Crucial to this marriage of Italian and Middle-Eastern companies is Intesa Sanpaolo. “It’s very important to build a bridge between the future and today and to do that you need to introduce innovative ideas,” explains Kushal Shah, Managing Partner, Middle East, Roland Berger.

“Intesa Sanpaolo is helping to drive the message home – not just as a participant, but as a key influencer.”

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