Marco Tronchetti Provera and Cristina Messa shake on the continuation of the Corimav project
One patent deposited every year, 44 student scholarships and 36 doctoral scholarships, all in the arena of research into advanced innovative materials: This is the fruit of the Corimav partnership created in 2001 as a joint venture between Pirelli and the University of Milano-Bicocca. The partnership was recently renewed at an event attended by Pirelli chief executive officer Marco Tronchetti Provera and Cristina Messa, the university’s rector.
“With the renewal of the Corimav consortium, we’re underlining the commitment both from ourselves and Pirelli to invest in research and development of new materials,” stated Cristina Messa. “For 15 years now, Corimav’s activities have allowed us to carry out sophisticated industrial research projects and activate advanced levels of professional training, such as the industrial doctorate. This close collaboration, with Corimav at its very heart, forms an integral part of a wider strategy to showcase the knowledge and innovation that Milan Bicocca University and Pirelli, together with other partners, are pioneering thanks to the Bicocca District project: a brand new network of academic institutions and companies working together to exchange know-how and opportunities, as well as improving services and enriching professional development.”
Marco Tronchetti Provera added: “The experience of the partnership between Pirelli and Milan Bicocca University has underlined how companies and academic institutions can together trigger initiatives that promote both professional and economic growth. We are collaborating with a number of different departments within the university that represent excellence at international level, and which help us to turn our most innovative projects into reality, as well as improving our product.”
The Corimav project first got under way with the objective of developing cutting-edge technologies using new materials, supporting research and development into eventual patent applications, and promoting training and career development opportunities for young researchers. Pirelli states that the “next chapter” of the project is now opening up.
The first phase of the Corimav programme provided scholarships aimed at three principal areas: nano-composite materials, energy transfer (superconductivity and distributed generation) and molecular modelling. These academic partnerships between Pirelli and the university anticipated an Italian government initiative three years ago designed to promote the creation of research doctorates in collaboration with industry. Since 2005, Corimav has provided doctoral scholarships to broaden the range of research and put in place continuous and structured programmes. From 2010 onwards, the focus has been specifically angled towards tyres, a sector that is obviously at the heart of Pirelli and its strategy. As a result, the consortium has become a natural think tank of knowledge and ideas between the university and Pirelli.
The tyre maker considers one of Corimav’s greatest strengths to be its ability to train highly-specialised engineers with specific skills, which can allow these people to become immediately employed in Pirelli’s research and development division. Therefore it comes as no surprise to hear that since the initiative started, around 20 per cent of the scholarship recipients have gone on to be employed by Pirelli. The company has also funded a full-time researcher tasked with coordinating the work of the Corimav scientists: a role that has been held by Barbara Di Credico since 2015. Specifically, the research activities funded by Pirelli target the study of inorganic materials that can be used in the vulcanisation of tyre compounds.
Among the recent success stories are Luciano Tadiello and Antonio Susanna. They are two researchers who have joined Pirelli’s research and development department and contributed to two Corimav patent deposits related to new materials for tyres that consume less energy.
Research into new materials to produce increasingly ecological tyres has been the main focus of Corimav’s activities in recent years. This includes one patent-protected project that Pirelli considers amongst the most innovative – the use of lignin to lower the environmental impact of tyre production. Lignin is a natural material with intrinsic antioxidant properties, which when altered by appropriate chemical and physical means can benefit the mechanical performance of a tyre and serve as a substitute for fossil-derived products such as carbon black.
Corimav’s green philosophy is not just limited to the tyre’s production phase and use – it also includes the end of life. Researchers have discovered a process of bio-devulcanisation in which bacteria and other biological agents are used to treat end of life tyres. Thanks to recent research, it has been possible to isolate bacteria with the capacity to remove sulphur-carbon bonds, which can be used to treat the constituent components of an end of life tyre with a view to subsequent recycling.
Enrico Albizzati has been the director of Corimav since its creation and is the company’s scientific advisor. Previously he was in charge of Pirelli’s materials innovation department.