Kickstarter HQ lock - by Scott Beale - Found on Flickr (CC) collaboration with the University is one of the strenghts of Navacchio, the incubator based near Pisa, Tuscany. In this column you can find four stories of startups that were incubated by Navacchio. Innovative startups looking for space may try and find a place at the Polo Tecnologico di Navacchio in Cascina, near Pisa, Tuscany. Read more in the column by Maria Teresa Cometto below.

Author: Maria Teresa Cometto

What’s the advantage of settling in Navacchio?
The collaboration with the university is exactly one of the strengths of Navacchio, which could be the twin town of Newark, New Jersey. In fact, Navacchio used to be a distillery, which went out of business and was converted into the Polo Tecnologico. Also Newark used to be an important hub of the alcohol business in the US (for example it was the home of Ballantine) and it started declining when the distilleries went out of business. What about the startups that are currently in Navacchio?

One the most promising is Pitom, “a tailor’s shop for drones” as his co-founder and CEO Roberto Mati explains. “We are the only Italian startup that does not assembles drones, but creates hardware and software to make them work”, Mati goes on. “We started in 2011 and we have already many big companies as clients. We hope that in the next future we’ll be able to launch products with our own brand”.

Another startup with ambitious projects is Casalife that invented a “cube” able to monitor all kind of pollution you can find in a home: its founders recently came to New York trying to find American investors, but they realized it takes more than a trip and a pitch to reach that goal. So now they are about to launch a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter ( ), which is probably a very good idea.

Since 2009 Kickstarter has in fact raised $1 billion for many cool projects, including tech products such as the famous Pebble smartwatch. So using this platform maybe be the right move to reach a global audience and potential customers. Casalife’s device was conceived within Cubit, the Consortium Ubiquitous Technologies, which is a lab aimed to invent and test wireless technologies. In Navacchio there are also well established companies with a long experience like Gruppo Scienzia Machinale (GSM), which was founded in 1990 and moved to the Polo Tecnologico in 2000.

“This structure is very efficient and it helped us grow from 15 to 50 people, with a €6.5 million revenue,” explains Gianluca Parrini, vice president. “We do R&D for big groups such as General Electric and Finmeccanica, we make robots for the marble industry and robots for medical applications”. GSM created the ‘electronic knee’ for  Officine Rizzoli Ortopedia di Budrio, which last year went into bankruptcy because of the Italian public administration not paying its bills (a very sad and unfortunately common problem in Italy).

“We are trying to get back the patent from the liquidator,” says Parrini, “because we are already talking with an American potential partner to sell the electronic knee in the US”. Energy and enthusiasm are high in Navacchio, which is ranked one of the best incubators in Europe (1st prize in 2011). But even better results could be achieved if the incubator’s space were conceived in a more collaborative way, following the American example. The incubators in New York are designed as open spaces meant for collaboration and for sharing ideas among startuppers. In Navacchio instead, each startup has its own traditional office, along aisles where doors are closed.