Francesco Gonella, Full Professor of Physics at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He has worked in various universities in Canada, United States, Japan and China, where he holds courses at the Beijing Normal University. He deals with systemic approaches to integrated sustainability applied to the study of bio-ecological and socio-economic systems.
Professor, what is the most specific role of Ca’ Foscari in the project and what are the expected results?
We provide specific skills on how to correctly describe, through quantitative models, the complexity of sustainability on an urban scale. The idea is to standardize the methods of study of dynamics on an urban scale that can also adapt to the description of very different realities (for example, Beijing and Venice), but which may have similar systemic configurations in relation to resource management.
You are an expert in systems and properties of materials, what are the technologies on which you are working to give an answer to the new concepts of the circular economy?
Especially in my group, we have developed and are perfecting models of integrated urban sustainability based on the application of systemic thinking, which will enable us to create dynamic simulators of resource flows. This means that, for example, infrastructure intervention programs based on the circular economy can be studied in their operating dynamics before major interventions are activated.
You were one of the first invited experts in the program of “Foreign Expert” at the Normal University of Beijing, can you tell us if these issues are on the agenda of the Chinese government not only in the field of research but also in practice, with the development of clean technologies and “circular” systems or materials?
The Chinese government is investing a great deal on these issues. This means that the entire supply chain is involved, starting from the creation of knowledge to the design of use and practical implementation. What I have been able to appreciate is the idea that there are “urgent” issues to be addressed, which must however be accompanied by the development of a specific culture, more in the long term, that starts from higher education. It is in this perspective that the Normal University of Beijing called me with the “Foreign Expert” program.
What do you think are the strengths of the project in regards to the growth path, the study and research experiences of young students and researchers?
The project is also important for the opportunities it offers to exchange students and researchers, who come into contact with research realities structured differently but that collaborate for a common purpose. And this is true both at the level of individual maturation, and at the level of synergistic growth of research carried out together by Chinese and Italian groups.