ITMO and University of Bologna Cooperate in Science and Education

18.06.2018

How is recycling organized in Italy, what is transition engineering all about, and how can its principles be applied to the operation of Russian companies in order to form a really effective recycling management system? Anastasia Pavlova, senior lecturer at the Department of Industrial Ecology and Safety, is working on a project that manages raw materials and wastes from the food industry, which answers these questions. She recently won an Italian government grant and has gone to the University of Bologna – the country’s second largest university and the oldest educational establishment in Europe. In the course of her internship, not only does Anastasia plan to study Italian practices, but also enhance cooperation with Italian universities.

Italian governmental grants

Every year, the Italian government issues different grants to foreign citizens, and Italian citizens living abroad. The program is supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI). Its goal is to develop international cooperation in the field of culture, science, and technology, as well to promote Italian language and culture, and support the Italian economic system on an international arena.

The grants provide opportunities for education and participation in programs at Italian universities. The program offers both courses for Master’s students, PhD programs, higher education courses in the field of art, music, and dance (AFAM), Italian language and culture courses, as well as programs that give one an opportunity to conduct research under academic supervision (Progetti in co-tutela).

This year, it was Anastasia Pavlova, senior lecturer at the Department of Industrial Ecology and Safety, who won the grant for conducting research at the University of Bologna. At this time, she has already been working in the industry for ten years. While still a student, Anastasia went to work for Coca-Cola as an environmental engineer, and in a few years, she was promoted to Director of Quality. During these years, she also defended her thesis, gave lectures at ITMO University, as well as worked with Master’s students from the Department of Industrial Ecology and Safety. Winning the grant contest encouraged her to change her career path and become a researcher.

Once I saw an announcement about a grant competition by the Italian government on our corporate portal. At first, I didn’t pay any attention to it, but then I came across the newspiece again and again. I discussed the matter with my supervisor Professor Olga Sergienko, Head of the Department of Industrial Ecology and Safety, and she said it would be great for me to work at the University of Bologna. So I decided to try. We created a project and got in touch with our Italian counterparts, who were very eager to accept our proposal. We sent an application for the contest and a few months later I received a call telling me that I won the grant”, recaps Anastasia Pavlova. “It was not easy to go because I had everything in St. Petersburg then – a job, projects to work on and a general routine. But I decided to take the chance anyway and go from business to science. I’m an intern at the University of Bologna now and I have no regrets, as it offers many opportunities”.

University of Bologna. Credit: shutterstock.com

University of Bologna. Credit: shutterstock.com

The University of Bologna is the oldest continuously existing university in Europe and the second largest university in Italy. It is famous for many alumni who became political figures, poets, writers, architects and entrepreneurs. Today it has 23 departments, as well as additional campuses scattered throughout northern Italy. The university takes part in 273 European programs, which allow the graduates to take internships in large companies and research centers.

Among other things, the university provides training in the field of environmental economics, sustainable development providing for interaction between economic decision-making, market forces, state policy and the environment.

What does the internship offer?

Within three months, under the guidance of Professor Alessandra Bonoli, Anastasia Pavlova will conduct a research project “Transition Engineering: Raw Material and Recycling of Food Industry Waste”.

What is “transition engineering”? It is an interdisciplinary approach to applying scientific principles to the design, innovation and adaptation of engineering systems and production processes with a view to transforming them for sustainable development. It represents an innovative perspective on transformation of existing systems by modelling trigger events.

Trigger events are factors that may affect transition to renewable energy sources. In general, this process is a step-by-step algorithm. It allows creating an ideal view of the future system and then identifying a list of actions that need to be taken to build this system.

Credit: shutterstock.com

Credit: shutterstock.com

Transition engineering as an idea was coined in New Zealand in 2010 as part of the project on sustainable development of the energy sector. In 2014, the Global Association for Transition Engineering (GATE) was established, with its main mission being to create innovations that help transform the traditional course of business development, effectively manage the risks of inefficient use of resources and reduce the negative impact on the environment.

“Now we are trying to apply this approach to different areas. We are mostly interested in the raw materials industry and its management and of course waste processing”, says Anastasia Pavlova. “In the framework of my project at the first stage, I study the Italian experience, in particular, the food waste processing. The region that I work in is famous for its food industry, so it is very interesting to see the insides of this system. I am planning to see how many of their practices we can implement in our factories and then develop a set of recommendations on how to apply these practices in addressing the key issues in Russia. In the future, I hope to see my recommendations at the basis of specific projects”.

Educational activity

In addition to working on a research project, Anastasia conducted a lecture on the principles of sustainable development in construction for foreign and PhD students of the Department of Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering. In addition, she participated in the SUM 2018 Fourth Symposium on Urban Mining and Circular Economy (May 21-23 in Bergamo, Italy) with a lecture on “Waste management in Italy and Russia: policy challenges and opportunities”. Last but not least, in early June, Anastasia Pavlova took part in the Festival for Sustainable Development (Festival Dello Sviluppo Sostenibile 2018).

We participate in conferences where we meet representatives of different universities. One of the latest was the University of Bari Aldo Moro that is interested in cooperating with us. This university conducts active scientific and educational activities in the field of sustainable development and environmental protection”, notes Anastasia. “I appreciate how Italy promotes the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals and implements them in every area, be it science, society or education. In my opinion, this is very important for achieving sustainable development in our society”.

 Anastasia Pavlova and Alessandra Bonoli

Anastasia Pavlova and Alessandra Bonoli

Moreover, in European universities and in Italy in particular, attention is paid to a circular economy, an economy based on reusing resources, recycling and transitioning to the renewable energy sources.

It seems to me that we have much to learn about industrial cooperation; so far we have a number of one-off initiatives and here there is a whole platform, a community for building cooperation. Another interesting field is combining industrial ecology and IT. Last week some interesting data was presented on platform development using IT solutions, which will allow you to trace the whole lifecycle of plastic. All of these promising research fields deserve attention and application in our country”, adds Anastasia.

Prospects

ITMO University and the University of Bologna plan to cooperate on projects and to strengthen scientific and educational cooperation.

The Department of Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering (DICAM) of the University of Bologna and ITMO’s Faculty of Food Biotechnology and Engineering have already signed an agreement.

The subdivisions plan to cooperate in the field of circular economy, waste management, environmental management and water management. Even now there are two joint articles about to be published on corporate environmental responsibility and environmental product declaration.

University of Bologna. Credit: students.com.ng

University of Bologna. Credit: students.com.ng

The universities are also interested in developing student exchange. A joint application for an Erasmus+ programme “Building capacity in the field of higher education” is on the way, which means developing joint educational programs.

Moreover, the universities are planning to submit an application to the Horizon 2020 program on Raw Materials Policy Support for the Circular Economy.

We are now working on the application. Our project is on a rather interesting topic, which is new for us and relevant for Bologna University and the EU as a whole. We are going to focus on raw materials management, on developing circular economy in non-EU countries. This project aims at creating a global platform for raw materials management and information exchange among the main stakeholders,” concludes Anastasia Pavlova.

The parties are working on the project’s concept and forming a consortium, which will also include representatives of state and business. The deadline for application submission is February 2019 and the results of competitive selection will be announced in the middle of next year.

Translated by Pavel Vorobyev


Journalist