18 August 2006

Microsoft opening major research centre in Turin, Italy?

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Microsoft Research
The news that Microsoft might open a major research centre in Turin, Italy (“Torino” in Italian) is obviously very important for the city and region where I live. Since the story is not yet available in English, here the translation from the La Stampa newspaper, which launched the news a few days ago.

An offer not to be refused. Microsoft wants to open a research centre in Turin: local authorities will need to react quickly. There is only one year of time.

The American software giant might open a large centre for technological development in Turin. The CEO of Microsoft Italia, Marco Comastri, confirms: “Yes. We are thinking about it. We already had various contacts with Turin. We would and could launch a research centre of excellence at the Turin Polytechnic University. We need to assess however whether certain conditions can be met”. In pratice, the Polytechnic is at the top of Microsoft’s thoughts, but there are also other candidates. Comastri is not revealing which ones, but he does say that his company has initiated talks with important universities elsewhere. Key for the multinational is speed. If the deal is agreed upon, everything has to be implemented within twelve months. “Anything else would be too slow for us”, affirms Comastri. If the deal is not moving immediately to the first concrete steps, the opportunity will be gone and Microsoft will look elsewhere.

The Dean of the Polytechnic, Francesco Profumo, had promised at his inauguration in June 2005 to work towards a doubling of the corporate campus area by creating joined scientific research centres between innovative companies and the university. He didn’t hide the fact that he was looking for the big players rather than small promising companies: IBM and, yes, Microsoft.

The ambition of Profumo is not just a paper one. He already met a few times with Comastro and will be receiving a Microsoft USA delegation in mid September: “The project we have in mind,” clarifies Profumo, “can definitely not be created without the active support of the American headquarters. We are also approaching the heads of Microsoft’s European Research Centre in the UK”.

This would be a major success not just for the Polytechnic, but also for the entire region, which already hosts a Motorola research centre thanks to the presence of the Polytechnic. The choice for Turin would also be significant, says the Dean, because as far as research is concerned Microsoft has up till now only had limited interest in countries like Italy, however important they may be as a market. The biggest Microsoft R&D centres outside the USA are currently located in large countries such as China and India.

Go Turin!

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