PoliHub is the Startup District&Incubator of Politecnico di Milano. It is conceived as “The ideal place in which you can get the most out of your ideas and turn them into an entrepreneurial project” (Source: Polihub website). It offers support not only to start up but also to existing hi-tech companies, with the objective of “Sharing of expertise, and providing access to the network of one of the best European technical universities in order to relaunch the new entrepreneurship”. Polihub offers traditional forms of support to entrepreneurs, complemented by specific training to entrepreneurs in terms of empowerment of their capabilities. Its current organization is the result of an important strategy by the Athenauem to integrate some of the most important resources and competences developed since 2000 in the field of innovation. POLIHUB in fact is the more recent evolution of the Politecnico Acceleratore d’impresa. In terms of Specialisation potential POLIHUB works with a bottom up perspective being open and looking for to new start-up to support or existing hi-tech companies to further support on the base of Politecnico expertise and competencies.
It is managed by Fondazione Politecnico, which “promotes collaborative initiatives with companies, and shareholders including the consortia of Politecnico di Milano: MIP, the Business School of the Politecnico, leader in executive training and specific programmes designed to boost entrepreneurship, Cefriel, a centre of excellence for digital innovation, and PoliDesign, one of the world’s leading design institutes” (Source: Polihub website). It is located in the Bovisa Campus of Politecnico, with the support of the City of Milan. The rationale of POLIHUB is to create an urban district favouring innovation and located in the city of Milan; actually it is the most relevant action developed in this sense at urban level, since other initiatives in this sense have failed such a result. The support provided by the city of Milan has consolidated this urban role. At the same time in the last years, the city of Milan has launched a strategic project aimed at supporting innovation, in particular within a social dimension perspective; in this respect the support to Polihub is now part of a larger strategy which has promoted a number of social innovation projects (started in 2014). As a result, Polihub is now complemented in its more direct technological feature, by other important incubators: Base Milano, which is focused on creative businesses; and FabriQ, which is the incubator specialised in the development of projects with a strong social impact.
POLIHUB, since its foundation does not play only a traditional support to the commercialisation of Politecnico researchers’ ideas. Polihub in particular is in charge of START CUP Lombardia, a regional tender in which innovative ideas coming from society, at large, compete for support. In this respect, Polihub is a central resource for entrepreneurial discovery: in particular, this idea of an open resource was further consolidated when Polihub management was transferred to Fondazione Politecnico, whose main aim is that of supporting a new dialogue between actors.
In general we could detect some strong contamination between the role played by Polihub and what the city of Milan has delivered in terms of RIS3 strategy. The case seems to talk more about the fragmentation produced by the large degree of autonomy that research actors have in the Italian case, since a limited interaction can be seen between Lombardy region’s Smart specialisation strategy and this and other initiatives: this produces on the one hand more complexity and less hierarchical alignment, on the other hand also allows some space of interesting contamination by different stakeholders strategies.
POLIHUB could become a reference point for the Smart Specialisation Strategy of the Region. Its successful experience could deserve future further attention by the regional policies, as well as other university hubs.