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5/13/2002
An advanced research facility for SACMI “noses”

Imola, where research means business

Imola – This morning finally sees the inauguration of the “Olfactory Sensors and Systems” laboratory, a new research facility dedicated to the development of the “electronic noses” that will be making their debut on the market next year. The ceremony was attended, among others, by the Mayor of Imola, Massimo Marchignoli, the President of Sacmi, Domencio Olivieri, and the General Manager of the Group, Giulio Cicognani. This new, cutting-edge research facility is part of the impressive Sacmi Research Centre: with a floor space of over 5000 square metres and over 140 members of staff, the Research Centre is the jewel in the company’s crown. The new facility reinforces the company’s focus on innovation, a winning strategy on the competitive markets of the new millennium. Yet what exactly are these “noses”? Essentially, they are miniscule ceramic (alumina) platelets measuring 2 mm by 2 mm, criss-crossed by a metal oxide semi-conductor coil (called Mox), which reacts differently to the volatile elements (i.e. odours) that come into contact with it and consequently produces electrical impulses. Sacmi “noses”, produced together with the INFM (National Institute of Material Physics) laboratories in Brescia, are actually based on human noses. Several receptors (i.e. platelets) perceive an odour and send an impulse to the brain (i.e. computer), where it is identified and compared to others as per programming parameters. This is the first instrument of its kind to be produced wholly in Italy and Sacmi has - once again - leapt at the opportunity to take a forward-looking chance on innovation. “This is a particularly proud day for me”, said Giulio Cicognani, during a meeting on olfactory sensors in the Sacmi convention hall, “because I believe that a Group such as ours, with total sales of € 550 million, has a duty to invest in research whether there is an immediate economic return or not. This conviction is shared by the Board of Directors and was voted for by Sacmi’s general assembly. It is a strategy that has involved evaluation of many projects being carried forward by Italian universities and, for now, has led us to focus on this and research into nanoceramics together with the University of Trieste”. “We must thank Sacmi”, points out Flavio Toigo, President of INFM, “because at a time in which big businesses are shutting down research facilities and small ones are only promoting programs with an immediate return, this is a brave choice. It is, I believe, the only way forward if Italy is to remain one of the world’s strongest economies”. The working partnership between Sacmi and the Universities of Brescia and Trieste is also a good example of mutually rewarding relations between research and industry. While Sacmi is not after an immediate economic gain, the ultimate aim is, of course, to transform research into business. Olfactory sensors, in fact, have numerous applications not only in the food industry, but also in environmental resear.
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