Project description

The Universities of Florence, Pisa, and Siena offer the SMART INDUSTRY PhD program, focused on the Industry 4.0 (I4.0) paradigm. The PhD program will include training and research initiatives in the 9 interdisciplinary enabling technologies of I4.0 (Advanced Manufacturing; Additive Manufacturing; Augmented Reality; Simulation; Horizontal/Vertical Integration; Industrial Internet; Cloud; Cybersecurity; Big Data & Analytics) with the aim of training young researchers capable of investigating and experimenting with innovative industrial processes and systems that gain competitiveness from the integration of advanced information processing components and methods. From the cultural roots of industrial and information engineering, there will be opportunities for cross-fertilization and research that will have value both through their integration and independently.

The PhD program is jointly proposed by the three universities in synergy with the industrial research initiatives already underway in the Tuscan territory. A strong research collaboration with the industrial sector will be promoted, where the development of the I4.0 paradigm can innovate portions of the production process or entire supply chains and enable new products, services, and business models.

The methodology will consist of: an educational offer that creates the scientific and methodological starting base; individual specialization in fields with adequate scientific and research depth; and aggregation of the fields on I4.0 objectives.

Course objectives

The objectives of the course are to train high-profile technical-scientific professionals who are competent in specific technological aspects, but also, and above all, competent in methodologies for integrating technological innovation into industrial processes, particularly in the following interdisciplinary enabling technologies:

  1. Advanced Manufacturing Solutions: Advanced automation systems for manufacturing and autonomous, cooperative, and collaborative robots that increase automation and productivity of lines without losing flexibility, with reduced investments accessible even to SMEs.

  2. Additive Manufacturing: Additive printing, which allows for the redesign of production processes and reduces Time-to-Market, thanks to rapid prototyping of new products, new production models (digital manufacturing, cloud manufacturing), and new forms of product lifecycle support (digital spare parts management).

  3. Augmented Reality: Virtual and/or mixed reality, the set of technologies, devices, and algorithms for augmented reality, virtual reality, and computer vision that enable new forms of interaction and control between humans and machines (HMI), for training, assistance, control, and automation processes.

  4. Simulation: Simulation environments for creating digital models of machines and processes (digital twin), through which system or process performance can be analyzed and optimized.

  5. Horizontal/Vertical Integration: Integration of information flows both vertically, through architectures and systems for automating and controlling manufacturing processes (MES, Manufacturing Execution System), and horizontally, along the value chain (Supply Chain Management).

  6. Industrial Internet: The Internet of Things in the industrial field, which uses sensors and connectivity of machines and systems to create large amounts of data to develop new information and knowledge.

  7. Cloud Computing: Virtualization of infrastructures for managing data and software applications, enabling the integration of “data lakes” and the development of collaboration platforms among companies in the value chain (business ecosystem).

  8. Cybersecurity: Systems, technologies, and algorithms that allow the secure and protected exchange of sensitive and confidential data.

  9. Big Data & Analytics: Advanced solutions and algorithms for developing analytics and predictive models, such as cognitive systems, machine learning applications, artificial intelligence, and deep learning, specifically oriented towards use in the industrial production field, making knowledge acquisition from large amounts of data much more effective through guided or autonomous training processes.

Career and professional opportunities

The professional figure trained by the Smart Industry PhD program will primarily find employment in industrial research and development and technology transfer, without excluding academic opportunities. Graduates will occupy positions such as Research Engineer, Process Engineer, Process Manager, Project Manager, and Innovation Broker, having been trained with process, IT, analysis, and control skills to operate in the wide range of industrial sectors interested in aligning with the I4.0 paradigm with a systemic vision. These sectors include the automotive industry, oil & gas, energy production and management, shipbuilding, aerospace, manufacturing industry, packaging, machine tools, robotic systems, and automation systems. In addition to these sectors, there will be professional opportunities in research and development activities for the service industry and for systems, products, and services related to resource management (“smart grid” in the energy sector, the environment generally known as “smart city,” “smart agriculture” in the agri-food sector, service robotics, etc.). Finally, another employment opportunity is constituted by the use of new digital technologies in the food production chain, particularly high-quality agricultural production, such as, in the region of the proposing universities, viticulture and olive growing, cereal cultivation, the dairy industry, and premium livestock farming.