Event 2021

Design and research between sustainability and digital

Circular Economy and Design 4.0 in the heart of Tuscany

The issues of - environmental, social, cultural and economic - sustainability contribute to place the innovative technologies of Industry 4.0 in a tangible scenario. In this framework, Italy, by vocation and practices, can find its specific role and competitiveness in the design that, through its natural endowment of synthesis of various disciplinary contributions, its ability to make innovation immediately usable as well as through its peculiarity to anticipate the future, can play a crucial role.

These considerations are at the basis of the projects developed with enterprises in the Tuscan Interiors sector - furniture and complement, camper and nautical – which is emblematic of the Made in Italy and have been promoted by dID- Interiors and Design Technological Cluster of the Tuscany Region in collaboration with the Design Laboratory for Sustainability (LDS) of the Department of Architecture (DIDAlabs, University of Florence) and other regional research centres.

In a territorial context in which enterprises rarely interact with the world of research, dID plays a key role in the different phases of innovation’s process and technological transfer. It also plays a fundamental role in the technical-administrative coordination of the projects, ensuring the smooth running and the correct achievement of the expected results, operating a kind of "language’s translation” between the production’s world and the research’ world. The goal is to facilitate the dialogue between the different players of a project as well as to undertake virtuous paths of innovation to increase not only the Tuscan but also the SMEs’ competitiveness.

The several R&D projects stemmed from the collaboration of entrepreneurs, technicians, companies and universities with the goal of innovative solutions aimed at increasing the level of internal skills and competitiveness of the involved companies, especially in an international context. Part of the research coordinated by the District was presented as a virtual exhibition during these months of the pandemic. The virtual exhibition can be viewed at the following link.

Among the latest research funded under POR-FESR 2014-2020 (Tuscany Region), there are:

  • SMAG, is a system of sculptural outdoor furniture for smart gardens equipped with a technological setup able to monitor the parameters related to air and soil quality (humidity and temperature) and to adjust the water system according to the needs of nature. The project has developed two product collections: "Seven Dwarfs" for private gardens and “Water Value” for public spaces. The research also involved the Department of Agriculture (UNIFI) and the companies: Nuvap Srl, Up Group Srl and Arredo di Pietra Srl;
  • TIAMBIENTA, has envisaged the creation of a furniture collection for children, equipped with technologies for safety and air quality. In particular, the core furniture project of the collection monitors the air quality parameters and activates a recirculation system in case of need. The wall brackets are instead controlled by a sensor system able to monitor children’s safety and prevent their falls. The footrests are equipped with UV lamps that guarantee the sanitisation of mattresses. The technological setup of the project has been also applied in the nautical sector and the camper sector.  The companies involved are: Cubit s.c.a r.l., Co-Robotics (Spin Off of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa), Spazio Arredo Srl, Sea Camper Spa, Overmarine Group Spa -;
  • TRAVEL the project aimed to design the new recreational vehicle SEA camper, increasing the lightweight of the vehicle and reducing the CO2 emissions, using expanded polymeric matrix and nanocomposites. Those have been used for the construction of structural elements both for the exterior and interior design. Natural fibrous reinforcements have been used in place of glass fibres by resulting in greater environmental compatibility. Nano-structured treatments and materials have been also used to ensure highly innovative vehicle performance such as water repellency, cleanliness, antibacterial properties and surfaces’ wear resistance. The companies involved are INSTM-National Interuniversity Consortium for Materials Science and Technology, S.E.A. European Autocaravan Company, Solera-Thermoform Group, Fidertessile SpA and CarboNovus Srl - ;
  • MIXEDRINTERIORS, applies AR/VR solutions to the traditional furniture-furnishing and complement sectors, to the camper and nautical sectors - intended as a macro-sector of living environments – to ensure distinctiveness and competitiveness. To achieve the objectives of the project, a service platform has been created, to allow the horizontal and vertical use of a series of innovative tools to facilitate the remote design and to allow the sharing of virtual projects and simultaneous collaboration on the same project. The companies involved are Richard Ginori (lead partner), Savio Firmino Srl, Marion Srl, S.E.A. European Autocaravan Company, 7Stars, Department of Social, Political and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Siena (DISPOC), Mediacross Srl;
  • REVYTA, develops new market opportunities, providing a solution for the management of fibreglass waste, a complex environmental problem of the involved production sectors. The goal is to propose an industrial and eco-sustainable business model for recycling fibreglass, through the fibreglass dismantling, disposal and recycling used in the nautical sector (boats), automotive (recreational vehicles) and public transport (rail) through the application of the principles of Design for Disassembly. The companies involved are: EFFEBI Spa, Flash Point Srl, DIFE Spa, SNIAP Srl, the Magona Technological Pole Consortium, the Biorobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna;
  • LEAN RE-USE DESIGN, the project is aimed to generate new product ideas by reusing production waste from the aluminium production chain (flawed pieces and scraps). The project involved FMV Trasmissioni Meccaniche, an industrial company closely linked to the territory and social fabric based in Tuscany, in Poggibonsi, in the heart of Val d'Elsa.

In addition to regional funded research, the Sustainability Design Laboratory (LDS) of the Department of Architecture at the University of Florence has also organized seminars, conferences, exhibitions and workshops aimed at understanding the design contribution concerning changing contemporary scenarios. During the pandemic months, to wonder about the current condition, it has promoted a series of initiatives called Sustainability Design Pills involving important designers and theorists including Formafantasma, Marco Petroni, Federica Fragapane, Duccio Maria Gambi, Lorenzo Giorgi. 

Among the recent educational experiences carried out by the Sustainability Design Laboratory (LDS) of the Department of Architecture at the University of Florence should be mentioned the workshop Material Beyond Materials where students empirically confronted themselves to investigate new materials in a circular economy perspective. 

​​In the field of curatorship, it has been part of MIDA 2021 and took care of Craft 4.0, a virtual exhibition that shows the positive implications of 4.0 technologies in everyday life to allocate content and meanings to technological innovation.

All these initiatives - funded by the above-mentioned partnership - try to contribute to the difficult challenges of sustainability.

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