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In association with Sole24Ore and the University of Johannesburg, the Italian Embassy in South Africa organised yesterday an articulated conference at this latter’s campus focusing on cooperation between Italy and South Africa in the field of applied scientific research. The event, launched by Sole24Ore in preparation for the Trento 2023 Festival of Economics, held in a hybrid format, was enriched by the speeches of 26 academics, scientists and company representatives in the fields of urban regeneration, artificial intelligence and ‘big data’, biotechnology, renewable sources and radio astronomy and aerospace.

Opening the proceedings, the Italian Ambassador Paolo Cuculi stressed that ‘Italy and South Africa share an intense and fruitful cooperation in highly innovative and high-tech areas, crucial for economic growth and sustainable development, also thanks to numerous agreements between universities and research institutes of the two countries, the action of over 120 Italian researchers working in South Africa, and the Executive Programme of Bilateral Scientific and Technological Cooperation, renewed for the next three years. Among the most important initiatives are the ‘Square Kilometre Array’ radio telescope, which will be built in South Africa and in which Italy is one of the main international partners (with funding of EUR 120 million over 10 years), and the Memorandum of Understanding on Artificial Intelligence signed by the ‘International Foundation Big Data and Artificial Intelligence’ in Bologna and the ‘South African National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure Initiative’. Also thanks to the scientific and technological cooperation, Italian exports to South Africa reached the record figure of over EUR 2.3 billion in 2022. The issues on the agenda, and in particular urban regeneration, are fundamental for the future of our societies, and characterise the candidature of the city of Rome to host EXPO 2030′.

The debate, which was followed online by an audience of about 6,000, continued with speeches by the Editor-in-Chief of Sole24Ore Fabio Tamburini and the CEO of Gruppo 24Ore Mirja Cartia D’Asero, the Rector of the University of Johannesburg Letlhokwa Mpedi and qualified speakers from South African Universities, of Government Departments, the Gauteng Region, the South African Observatory for Radio Astronomy and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Trieste (which has an office in Cape Town). On the Italian side, speakers at the various sessions included Enel Green Power Country Manager Manuele Battisti, Research Director of the INAF Astrophysical Observatory in Catania Grazia Maria Umana, and President of the World Confederation of Jewellery Gaetano Cavalieri, the Director for Sustainable Innovation at Andersen Maurizio Ferrero, the Director for Supercomputing, Applications and Innovation at the Consorzio Interuniversitario per il Calcolo Automatico (CINECA) Sanzio Bassini and the former President of the Italian Space Agency Roberto Battiston. The discussions highlighted the worldwide excellence of the scientific research systems of Italy and South Africa and the interesting prospects, also in terms of industrial development, that more intense bilateral cooperation can open up, together with the common determination to deepen new partnerships for innovation.

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