Finmeccanica, which later became known as Leonardo, was founded on March 18, 1948 as Italy’s holding corporation for the mechanical and shipbuilding industries. A new book details the history of a corporation that has been there from the beginning of Italy’s industrialization and urbanization.
There have been 75 years of growth in the Italian aerospace, defense, and security industry, and with that growth has come new markets, new technology, and new people. 75 years of progress in the fields of economics, social sciences, and the arts throughout the country and the people we’ve helped. The development of Italy’s industrial sector following the end of World War II can be traced back in large part to Leonardo, which was founded on March 18, 1948 under the name Finmeccanica. The book “Leonardo. Motore industriale e frontiera tecnologica dell’Italia,” authored by Il Sole 24 Ore correspondent Paolo Bricco and published by il Mulino, provides an innovative key to interpreting these three quarters of a century of history.
“Leonardo is an expression of its era, of the age of globalization and hypertechnological capitalism, and of the age of Italy,” writes Bricco in his latest book. Leonardo has played a significant role in shaping Italy’s industrial physiology. The presence of critical technology for the industrial growth of Italy and its partner nations is a thread that runs through five landmark events in the company’s 75-year existence. In the outset, in 1948, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) of Italy spearheaded the revival of Italy’s shipbuilding and thermoelectric and mechanical industries following World War II.
Once the shipbuilding industry was broken up in the 1960s and 1980s, attention shifted to the aerospace sector and the developing electronics industry on the one hand, and the mass market for vehicles on the other. The Aerospace, Defense, and Security sectors in Italy were consolidated in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and after 2005, international expansion occurred in the UK, the US, and Poland. Since the year’s end, the company’s assets have been rationalized, and it has been reorganized into One Company in order to better satisfy the needs of competition and investment capacity, both of which are crucial for focusing on new areas of business and technical development.
Thus, we have arrived at the current phase of convergence between industry and digital technology, which necessitates the collection of data from various sources (such as geoinformation) and the management of this data via cloud-based supercomputing tools (such as the da Vinci-1 HPC), artificial intelligence, and cyber security to produce closely interconnected, integrated, multi-domain systems. “A model of industry characterised by very significant investment in R&D and open innovation,” notes Bricco, “by technological incubators – the eleven Leonardo Labs – and by digital twin solutions whose detailed modelling of a real element permits prediction, in a virtual environment, of the most widely varying scenarios of use, from engineering through to operations”.
After 75 years in the business, Leonardo is now “an crucial element of the country’s technological and industrial infrastructure,” as Bricco puts it. The country of Italy is becoming increasingly marginalized: “we no longer represent the hinge between east and west, as we did when the west meant democracy and the east stood for communism; we no longer have Europe’s biggest communist party; and we are no longer the hinge between the north and south, in the heart of the Mediterranean. Despite this, the corporation “is an essential cog in the wheel of global manufacturing of significant geopolitical significance. It has a systemic effect on the character and standing of the nation. Several of Italy’s remaining big industrial firms are responsible for the country’s continued ties to the leading western democracies. The writer says, “Leonardo is at the cutting edge of technology. It suggests that Italy is also on board with this idea. Italy’s automotive, IT, and chemical sectors are experiencing a major crisis as a result of the global economic shifts that have occurred in recent years. The country’s production structure might be disrupted by this momentous change.
From this vantage point, Leonardo is “a very important stabilizing factor; its factories, laboratories, and research centers, active in a great variety of fields, pushing ahead the technological frontiers of our times, become vital ganglia that are even more essential for our country’s economic, manufacturing, scientific, and cultural physiology. Italy is tearing apart its large-scale corporations despite having an economy characterized by the preponderance of small and medium-sized businesses and a cultural legacy that capitalizes on their advantages and virtues. This is not the case with Finmeccanica and Leonardo, though, as Bricco argues.