The Scuola Normale in the Former Ilva Foundry. «We are devising new ways to be present within our territory»

The spaces destined to the Scuola Normale for 5 years within the former Foundry N. 1 in Follonica have been inaugurated. Students and researchers will have multimedia stations at their disposal during this first phase of a collaboration that could result in a permanent presence of the Scuola Normale in the maritime town in the province of Grosseto. The institutions are exploring the possibility of organising a pre-university orientation course in the theatre born from the restoration of the former Ilva site, and for five years the Scuola Normale will share with the territory its scientific expertise in the conservation of cultural heritage and the agri-food system.

“I believe that the collaboration with the Scuola Normale constitutes the second step in an operation started years ago and involving the former Foundry”, said Andrea Benini, Mayor of Follonica, during his presentation speech. “The first one was the restoration and conservation of something precious, a place full of history and meaning. We tried to preserve the original elements of these structures, so as to always have before our eyes these testimonies of the past. However, the moment came to imagine a new future, and that was the second step we needed to take. We want to explore new frontiers, imagine a new way of interacting with our territory consistently with the times we are living in, and we think that the collaboration with a scientific institution such as the Scuola Normale is the best we could hope for in this sense”.

“Someone might wonder what is the reason behind the presence of the Scuola Normale here in Follonica”, added Vincenzo Barone, Director of the Scuola Normale. “My goal is to promote the diffusion of a Scuola Normale ‘scattered’ in Tuscany’s ‘peripheral areas’, as is already the case in Cortona, San Miniato, and Arcidosso. What do we do in such locations? Essentially, we trade skills. Here, we intend to explore two different research fields: cultural heritage and the agri-food system. We will try to develop projects for the safeguard, valorisation and promotion of the archaeological heritage in collaboration with local institutions, which are invited to candidate directly. In the case of the agri-food system, the Scuola Normale owns some laboratories that are perfect for increasing our knowledge in this area, such as the Biology Laboratory – with its vanguard research on the ageing of the nervous system –, the Physics Laboratory – concentrating on nanotechnologies applied to the biophysical and medical fields –, and the SMART Laboratory of Computational Chemistry – focused on any aspect concerning the simulation of those chemical processes involved in the formation of molecules. I believe that firms and local producers might be interested in consulting us, for example, to reach a better understanding of the chemical and physical dynamics behind products’ composition, and be able modify any organoleptic or conservation properties. As is the case for cultural heritage, we are at complete disposal for any investigation and consultation”.  Starting next year, the Scuola Normale will try to organise in Follonica, as it already does in Cortona and San Miniato, some educational meetings reserved for schools, such as orientation courses or training days focusing on one subject. «I think that it might be interesting for local students and teachers to get to know the Scuola Normale – continued Barone – keeping in mind that it is not limited to a building or to its instrumentation, but it is formed by a community of people performing frontier research in hard and human sciences and wanting to dialogue with citizens in order to explain their activity, their results, and the future of some particular fields”.

«Having the courage to take a risk can lead to important results, and this proves it”, explained Enrico Rossi, President of Regione Toscana. “I believe we don’t just need to focus on generating wealth; a territory also needs to rediscover its past, so that we can get to know who we were. The history of steel industry is fundamental for the South of Tuscany, and Follonica took an important step forward for its territory. We need to challenge the idea that only big city centres deserve investments, and rediscover the peripheries. I am sure that the presence of the Scuola Normale will produce a great effect on the area and will raise the level of the conversation. The researches performed by the Scuola are in perfect harmony with the characteristics of this part of Tuscany, which needs to become central. The University will give a great contribution and we will also make our part”.

Follonica (GR), 23th september 2017