From Realtà Mapei International n° 69 - 12/07/2018
Dianna Bracco was born in Milan and graduated in chemistry from Pavia University, where she was also awarded an honorary degree in pharmacy, before going on to take a degree in medicine from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome. She is President and CEO of the Bracco Group, a major pharmaceutical-chemical company founded in 1927, which also encompasses the Centro Diagnostico Italiano (Italian Diagnostics Centre), a multi-clinic facility providing a full range of preventative services of the very highest European standards.
Under her leadership, the Bracco Group has reached the very cutting-edge globally in the diagnostic biomedical imaging sector. The company now has a consolidated turnover of approximately 1.25 billion Euros, 87% of which coming from foreign markets, and employs approximately 3450 staff. Every year it invests approximately 9% of its turnover in R&D and can boast a portfolio of over 1800 patents.
Diana Bracco is currently also the President of the Bracco Foundation and President of the National Life Science Cluster – ALISEI. She is also a member of several boards of directors, including those of Bocconi University and the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala.
A member of the Italian Order of Merit for Labour, she was the President of Expo 2015 SpA and the General Commissioner for the Italian Pavilion.
You played a key role in Milan’s bid to host the Expo, both during the tricky preparation period and the actual running of the 2015 Expo. What is your opinion about what is happening to the huge area that hosted the event?
I must admit that I am truly delighted to see that Tecnopole’s first researchers are coming to work in our magnificent Palazzo Italia with its futuristic architecture and its biodynamic cement custom-designed by researchers from Italcementi, which stands alongside the Tree of Life. As we envisaged at the time, the Expo site will be taken up by a gigantic Science, Knowledge and Innovation Park, which has already been given the clever acronym “MIND” (Milan Innovation District), which I like a lot. Thinking back over the challenge Expo posed, I would like to add that it was the most difficult thing I have ever undertaken. A challenge so intimidating that it made me tremble at the knees, which was, however, also a crucial turning point for both Milan and the whole of Italy. We showed the world that we can do great things: it was extremely rewarding.
Do you think Human Technopole will really be a great opportunity for Italy?
I certainly do. It is an ambitious and visionary project, which aims to take Italy to the very forefront in the sciences of life. I am sure it will become a world-class integrated multidisciplinary research infrastructure in the fields of health, genomics and data science. Thanks to this extraordinary project Milan will gain credibility and attract leading international professionals in these industries. It is extremely significant and an extremely good omen that a leading figure like the Scottish scientist Iain Mattaj, the current Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, is planning to leave Germany to come to Italy to head the Human Technopole. Congratulations to Arexpo and Roberto Cingolani for the work they have done over the last few years.
Once a city renowned for its often family-run small and medium-size businesses and manufacturing companies, Milan is now turning into a major city focused around the advanced services industry. What you think about this transition?
Like all major cities from London to Paris, it was an inevitable step. Nevertheless, Milan still has an important industrial fabric, as is shown by Mapei or Bracco itself, as well as all the companies associated with Assolombarda (the Associations of the firms located in the Provinces of Milan, Lodi and Monza and Brianza). Nowadays Milan stands for industry, finance, tourism, design and fashion, but it is still very much a centre of research and innovation. I would like to emphasise that the territorial marketing campaign carried out to try get the headquarters of the EMA (European Medicines Agency) transferred from London to Milan demonstrated Milan’s new vocation to the entire world: the aim to be one of the leading capitals of in the field of research. Human Technopole will seal its status, significantly benefiting from the work carried out to try and attract the EMA.
The suburbs of Milan are, however, still more a problem than a resource. The city Mayor, Giuseppe Sala, has focused his attention on the suburbs and promised to do something about this issue, even turning to the private sector for help. As President of the Bracco Foundation, do you have any plans in mind?
The issue of marginalisation and the city suburbs has increasingly been the focus of attention of both researchers and public administrators/practitioners over the last few years, as they have struggled to come up with ideas for regenerating places and communities, well aware that the only way to really grow is to grow together. Faced with the issue of migration, which has such a major impact on life in the suburbs of big cities, we cannot remain indifferent. As the Bracco Foundation, for example, we have at least made a minor contribution in aid of those people who are often forgotten and overlooked. We must all realise that, unless we take action on the social fabric of society, problems can degenerate dramatically, as we can see from what has happened recently in so many major European cities.