With a degree in Physical Engineering, a PhD in Physics and years of scientific research in Spain, France and Italy, Greta is passionate about process and product innovation. She contributed in bringing graphene, a new material with extraordinary mechanical, thermal and electrical characteristics, to market applications, participating in the launch of one of the most promising start-ups in this industry. She is currently junior Engagement Manager of McKinsey & Company.
A self-portrait talking about you: passions, challenges, dreams, projects ...
I enjoy spending time with friends and doing outdoor activities. I am passionate about horse riding and do not miss the chance to take a ride with Ballerina, the horse who has been with me for years in competitions. I'm curious, I like learning new things and I'm always very fond of what I do. When facing challenges, I sometimes find myself a bit stubborn, as someone tells me, although I prefer to call myself tenacious. “You make things happen” is definitely the attribution I’m more proud of. I hope to translate the passion, energy and enthusiasm I face every day in a positive impact for the people around me.
One of your motto is: “Curiosity and imagination will take you further”…
This is the phrase we chose as the motto for the founding of Bedimensional, the startup born with the aim of bringing to market new two-dimensional materials with extremely interesting characteristics, among which the most famous is the Graphene. It was 2015 and at the time I was a researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. The poster read:
Changing the world can be as simple as it is satisfying. We believe that to do so you need a great deal of CURIOSITY, which is exactly what leads us to make innovative discoveries AND find cutting-edge solutions as well as revolutionary materials. But what really makes the difference is having IMAGINATION. We envisage the way people WILL want to live tomorrow and apply all our knowledge to TAKE us beyond the boundaries of today’s technology just so that people like YOU and us will be able to experience life FURTHER.
I still strongly believe in those words. I am extremely passionate about innovation and much of the "fuel" that feeds me lies in thinking every day how we could make better tomorrow.
You deepened your research abroad: is it a sign of the difficulty of finding adequate support and recognition in our country for researchers?
My experience abroad was driven by the desire to challenge myself with an international context, a step that is not only healthy but in my opinion necessary for growth, especially in the world of scientific research which, by its very nature, goes beyond the borders of any nation. It was a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally, and I recommend it to anyone. In particular, Barcelona was an experience that I will always carry in my heart. A multicultural city, which brings together people from all over the world, and which made me feel at home immediately. Getting in touch with such a heterogeneous context, meeting so many people from different cultures, and yet be welcomed with so much care to feel at home. But be careful: traveling and challenging yourself in international context is a natural path for researchers and is not a negative signal by itself. What can become a problem for our country is the loss of attractiveness compared to other international centers. On this element, we would need a much more energetic action and more resources than we can see today.
"Innovation", which is the practical application of the results of scientific research, is of fundamental importance to you...
My experience as a "researcher" has given me the opportunity to experience first-hand the excellence that the world of scientific research creates. A great value that unfortunately often is confined inside the walls of research centers. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I hope that one day the country will be able to create an "innovation factory", capable of transforming the results of Scientific Research into solutions and products that can be developed by Companies, generating value for the market and above all for all of us, in our everyday life. The connection of these two worlds could release great wealth for all.
Your name is linked to graphene, a new material that promises great success: can you summarize its characteristics?
There are materials in nature that are constituted by "layers", of the thickness of a single atom, held together by weak bonds. This is the case, for example, of graphite, that we all have used at least once in a lifetime holding a pencil. Graphene is a single layer of graphite, a sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure.
The extreme subtlety of this material has very important repercussions on its properties: in fact moving to 2-dimensional physics laws of physics allows to obtain as a general result "extreme" properties. Graphene has a mechanical resistance about 200 times higher than that of steel and an extraordinary thermal conductivity, it is biocompatible, biodegradable, unrivaled up to now in the ability to conduct electricity, it is a barrier almost impermeable to the majority of chemical elements, while maintaining the characteristics of flexibility and lightness.
This material is so extraordinary that in 2010 the two physicists, Andrej Gejm and Konstantin Novoselov, that summarized the material for the first time (almost by chance) in the laboratories of the University of Manchester, won the Nobel Prize for Physics.
This "wonder material" promises high-impact applications in various sectors, from wearable to automotive, from textiles to energy.
The production of the "super objects" that graphene allows, beyond their performative value, can have a positive social impact?
Yes of course. A material like graphene could allow us to print electronics on biodegradable and wearable supports, making a myriad of applications possible in full respect of the environment. Its characteristics change some technological scenarios, as in the case of batteries which, although in an experimental phase, become capable of accumulating more energy for the same weight and in less time, paving the way for sustainable electric mobility of the future. The possibility of introducing graphene into the production of objects could give us very high-performance plastics and a radical change in the production techniques of objects. Moreover, in the case of transport, the potential lightening of the structures offered by these "super-plastics" can lead to a reduction in consumption. Each of the many opportunities offered by graphene changes - for the better - the system around us.
What is left of your activity as administrator of Bedimensional?
A wonderful experience and many learnings. I had the opportunity to sit for the first time at the Technology Transfer table, on the science side, as a young researcher with an “all made in universities and scientific research centers” experience and a huge desire to bring the value I could see in my part of the table to companies and in the everyday life of all of us, as products and solutions. I learned that Technology Transfer process requires cultures, attitudes and skills that change along the way. Launching a startup requires growing up with her.
You undertook a new experience at "McKinsey"…
Yes. The passion for innovation and technology transfer has not changed. Today I’m doing experience in the Business World: that world that, when I was a start-upper, I could only see sitting in front of me at that table I was talking about before. Maybe one day, at that table, I will be able to sit down again, both as a researcher and as a manager, acting as a link and mediator between the two worlds.
How much have the Polytechnic and Milan environment contributed to your cultural and scientific growth?
The Polytechnic has been a top-level school. A lively, stimulating and at the same time very rigorous environment. The value, real and perceived at international level, of this kind of experience is indisputable. For me then, it has also been an opportunity to get into the city for the first time. I grew up in a small town in Brianza, in the countryside; Polytechnic allowed me to start living the city, and Milan is certainly one of the most dynamic and sparkling cities in Europe.
What would you suggest to make Milan a "smart city"?
Thinking of the cities of Northern Europe, it would be nice to imagine a Milan with less cars. It would also be nice to imagine a city that incentives to reduce packaging, and therefore the creation of waste. Finally, a city that knows how to seize the opportunities offered by new technologies, for example to control and reduce heating emissions. A city is smart if it favors the aggregation of solution holders, if it’s open and inclusive, if it has the courage to lead the way on new ideas. This is already partly done in Milan, but for example I would like to see among the measured objectives: water footprint, penetration of digital, social inclusion. If those who lead the community create the conditions, those who produce ideas find ways to bring solutions. I'm sure.