podcast

Techstars in Turin: setting the wheels in motion for a smarter future

A Turin-based incubator, together with the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, is helping innovative tech companies to make our cities smarter

26/04/2021

Listen on Spotify

The home city of Fiat and birthplace of the beloved Fiat 500 car, Turin has long been the nerve centre of Italy’s automobile industry.

The headquarters of several globally recognised manufacturers also prides itself on having some of Italy’s top engineering schools, offering specialised automotive courses.

This means it is just the right place to build an innovation ecosystem – particularly if you believe transport will be one of the main agents of change in the cities of the future.

In 2019, Intesa Sanpaolo’s Innovation Center, the Fondazione Compagnia di SanPaolo and the Fondazione CRT joined forces to launch a three-year project aiming to use Turin as a testing ground for smart city schemes, particularly smart mobility.

The duo teamed up with Techstars, a specialist in the nurture of nascent tech companies, to form the Techstars smart mobility acceleration programme.

“The new challenge for the city of Torino is to move from ‘car’ to ‘mobility’ – to move from product to mobility as a service,”

says Marco Pironti, Deputy Mayor for innovation, City of Turin. “The collaboration with Techstars represents one of the main pillars for this transition.”

The development of the Torino City Lab, a designated area for the testing of smart city innovations, shows that Turin is already looking forward to the challenges of the future.

The city is also home to innovation hubs such as Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), along with thinkers and builders who are pushing to create technologies that will meet our future needs.

“For Torino, the topic of mobility is crucial for our territory. Our city has a long industrial heritage – not only Fiat, not only FCA, but now Stellantis”
Marco Pironti, Deputy Mayor for innovation, City of Turin

“Torino is moving quickly to [becoming] a smart city,” says Martin Olczyk, Managing Director of Techstars. “We’re very happy to be part of it, and there are unique testing opportunities with Torino City Lab.”

Olczyk cites Stellantis, the global electric vehicle maker, as one example of a tech company that has greatly benefited from testing in Turin, where it has its Italian HQ.

For Vincenzo Antonetti, Head of Network Development of Innovation at the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, it was only natural that the collaboration with Techstars for a smart mobility acceleration programme should happen there.

“The city of Turin in the last four years has been investing a lot to transform the city into a real smart and technological place,” he says. “It has been a natural evolution to host Techstars and the smart mobility programme in Turin at OGR.”

“For international companies that are looking for potential partners, Italy is the place to be”
Vincenzo Antonetti, Head of Network Development of Innovation, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center

The Techstars programme nurtures 12 start-ups each year, giving them access to mentorship and platforms to discuss, develop and sharpen their ideas. Intesa Sanpaolo’s Innovation Center is involved at every stage of the programme, from selection to mentorship.

Wiseair, a company created to tackle air pollution in cities through sensor technology and data analysis, is part of this year’s cohort.

“It’s a revolutionary experience, we could never have imagined how much we could do in just three months. The most valuable part is the ‘mentor madness’. In just three weeks each company has the opportunity to engage with over 100 high profile managers, investors, entrepreneurs, receiving an incredible amount of feedback on which to build their own synthesis. You have high value in terms of network that is created during the process,” says Wiseair CEO Paolo Barbato.

One of the goals in incubating these start-ups in Italy is to encourage them to stay in the country and help transform the economy. One success story from the programme is Sheeva.AI, a vehicle location-based services platform for automatic, contactless payments and last-mile navigation, which set up a base in Turin following its incubation on the programme in 2020.

Evgeny Klochikhin, its CEO, says: “Italy is such a great country – number one – but also it is a great market for this type of idea. It’s one of the most advanced engineering powers in the world.

Martin Olczyk, Managing Director of Techstars
Evgeny Klochikhin, Sheeva.AI CEO
Paolo Barbato, Wiseair CEO

“The other aspect is all the connections we got through the partnerships – and that was mostly down to the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, Fondazione CRT and Compagnia di SanPaolo – who helped us get in front of the city of Turin, which helped us to grow our business.”

Sheeva.AI having a base in Turin is just one example of what happens when you create the conditions for innovation to thrive.

Marco Pironti, Deputy Mayor for innovation, City of Turin, cites the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center partnership as a strong example of how public and private collaborations should work to shape the future.

“We need to change the paradigm,” he says. “We are working on technological infrastructures – but the problem is not the technology but the human capabilities to capture all of its potential.

“The role of the city is not to innovate but to make it possible and easy for all the players.”

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the Techstars smart mobility acceleration programme.

Related stories.