Stefano Micelli & Eleonora Di Maria
Twenty years ago the TeDIS Center (now TeDIS Program on Innovation) started its activities at VIU. The main idea supporting the launch of TeDIS then was to explore how network technologies that were developing at the end of ‘90s could support value creation and sustain new business models for firms and networks. At the beginning of the new millennium the revolution of the Web and the rise of the so-called new economy was an extraordinary laboratory of experimentation in the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in business, where new firms (such as Amazon) or new applications (the e-commerce between firms and with the consumers) appeared in the economic landscape.
TeDIS – which stands for Technologies for Distributed Intelligent Systems - has focused its research in exploring in particular the use of ICT in industrial districts as local networks of manufacturing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). For about 10 years the TeDIS annual Survey became the point of reference on a national level for the study of the relationship between ICT and SMEs and the most challenging evolutionary trends within the Italian Industrial Districts according to a quantitative approach. Among the main contributions was the identification of particular paths of investments and technological adoptions for SMEs and districts: network technologies supported networks of firms, but the adoption of ICT solutions has been mainly related to technologies (i.e. the website or email) not transformative of district processes, but more available as “off the shelf” solutions.
Within this context, TeDIS research also explored the role of digital technologies within the internationalization processes of SMEs and districts. Through scientific collaboration with the Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness (CGGC) of Duke University – now Duke GVC Center – we show how district activities and growth are intertwined with Global Value Chains. The transformation and competitiveness of manufacturing SMEs (such as luxury shoemakers close to Venice) is linked not only to the competence in innovation available at the local level but also to their ability to link and interact with leading global firms, i.e. in the fashion global value chains.
The role of digital technologies is also a key factor for SMEs’ interconnection to logistic networks and is fundamental to compete in terms of costs and service quality. Value-creating activities are linked to the organization of integrated networks, which depends on the planning, management, and control of efficient and effective supply chains and logistics and transport systems. In this respect, TeDIS invested to create an international network of researchers and institutions to manage international projects in the field of transport, logistics and supply chain management, both in freight and passenger sectors in accordance with the 2020 European agenda goals.
After 20 years the world is facing a new revolution linked to industry 4.0 technologies, encompassing robotics, additive manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. This fourth industrial revolution is challenging the business scenario of firms, especially SMEs. On the one hand, Industry 4.0 potentially reduces economies of scale and allows manufacturing to relocate to high-cost countries and close to the final customers, with unexplored opportunities for small firms. On the other hand, the advent of automation puts under discussion the organization of manufacturing activities and the relevance of labour (and human competences), while artificial intelligence requires extensive data sets (big data) that only large firms and platforms seem able to manage so far.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, TeDIS has engaged with the constituent universities of VIU, to develop and launch two very relevant graduate activities to drive the scholarly discussion on TeDIS’ areas of focus:
The VIU PhD Academy in May on Mobility Challenges for Future Society addressed how shared mobility, autonomous driving, vehicle electrification, connectivity, Internet of Things and other advances are transforming urban mobility. By setting the scene around the fast-moving trends influencing urban mobility systems around the world, the program provided participants with advanced skills for successfully implementing PhD research projects on mobility related issues.
The VIU Graduate Seminar on “Rethinking Rethinking Manufacturing, Consumption, and Globalization in the Era of Automation” at VIU (September 9-13, 2019) will continue the TeDIS research tradition on this topic, through an international discussion on the implications of new digital technologies between Asia, Europe, and US.
The TeDIS Program on Innovation carries out training and research in the field of Innovation and Competitiveness in the Global Economy with particular attention to globalization processes of world economy related to the different areas: Creativity, Design and Innovation, Transport and Logistics and Supply Chain Management; Innovation in Public Administration.