Spin-off of the Federico II University of Naples which develops algorithms for tire control, MegaRide won the first edition of the Innovation section of the Barsanti and Matteucci award for excellence in the automotive industry. Farroni CEO: “Technology transfer can and must be done”
Are you looking for champions of innovation? Want a good example of technology transfer? Follow MegaRide, a spin-off of the Federico II University of Naples which develops algorithms for tire control and has made speed its hallmark: revenues continue to grow by double digits (+65% in 2022) and six years after The foundation is now a small holding company with an international reputation with clients ranging from Formula 1 to MotoGP, from the most important tire manufacturers to the new autonomous driving players.
A research and entrepreneurial path that has found new recognition: on Saturday 15 October MegaRide was awarded the first edition of the Innovation section of the historic Barsanti and Matteucci award, which since 2000 has recognized excellence in the automotive industry, won this year from Maserati and in the past went to prestigious brands such as Ferrari and Brembo among others. “The thing that most interested and struck me personally is the depth of the study that MegaRide is carrying out on the characterization of the tire”, the engineer Stefano Iacoponi, who heads the technical-scientific committee of the award and who has worked a few ten years ago as a track engineer for Ferrari in Formula 1. “In my day it was very difficult to understand how tires worked, we only had the thermometer as a tool. The work of MegaRide, on the other hand, allows us to obtain in a scientific way what at the time depended only on individual sensitivity”.
What is MegaRide: from research team to scaleup
The origins of MegaRide are in the search for new algorithms for tire control, with applications in the world of motor racing born during the doctorate at the Federico II University of Naples by Flavio Farroni, a mechanical engineer specialized in vehicle dynamics. In 2016 the project becomes a company that takes its name from the small island on which Castel dell’Ovo stands in Naples which, however, can also be read in English as “great race”. Farroni founds MegaRide, of which he is CEO, together with two partners, Francesco Timpone and Aleksandr Sakhnevych, all professors and researchers of applied mechanics, and the spin-off starts making money from day one thanks to its credibility, know-how and network of the University, which immediately attracted important customers such as Ferrari and Ducati.
“We have never stopped, both in business and in research”, says Farroni, who is also a professor at Federico II. “And with our solutions today we range from the Formula 1 teams to the electric vehicles of Formula E, from the self-driving vehicles of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, to the ovals of the North American NASCAR. We have built a family of software capable of adapting to multiple needs, allowing MegaRide to communicate with those who produce cars, with those who produce tires and with those who develop automotive components, in Italy and abroad”. Year after year, the reputation of the team and the brands has grown rapidly, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Not just scaleups. MegaRide has become a holding company: it has an important stake in VESevo, which has created a device for testing tires and in turn expands with applications in sports, clothing and heavy industry. And it acquired another startup, Wriggle Solutions, itself a spin-off of the Sant’Anna University of Pisa, which developed strategic technologies for assessing tire wear.
After winning the Italian Master Startup Award in 2020, the Barsanti and Matteucci Award marks the debut in the high society of the car, where MegaRide is bringing the innovation capacity of research put on the road.
The Barsanti and Matteucci Prize, the inventors of the internal combustion engine
But why is this award so important? Let’s start with a bit of history: established in 2000, the Barsanti and Matteucci International Prize was born as an initiative of the Rotary Club Viareggio Versilia together with the municipality of Pietrasanta and the patronage of the Tuscany Region, the Province of Lucca and the University of Pisa in memory of father Eugenio Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci, inventors of the internal combustion engine. Objective: to signal the excellence in the development and innovation of motor vehicles with a recognition. At the head of the technical-scientific committee is engineer Stefano Iacoponi, winner of the first edition, who over the years has rewarded big names such as Ferrari, Bosch, Brembo and, in the 2022 edition, Maserati.
This year for the first time, alongside the traditional prize, a section dedicated to startups and young companies has been set up: the first choice was MegaRide. Why? “The award was created to recognize the innovative contribution of the element that has favored mobility and progress: the internal combustion engine. The future of mobility, however, today no longer resides in the engine, which has become a commodity. Instead, the vehicle and everything that contributes to defining it has become important” engineer Iacoponi explains to Economyup.
“Two basic elements can be distinguished in the vehicle, namely the architecture and the connection between the vehicle and the road. It is on this that MegaRide has distinguished itself, which is carrying out monitoring and testing activities on applications that define the contact between rubber and asphalt: relying on its excellent university skills to simulate contact with the road in the vehicle, it is showing the ability to interpret the future of mobility“.
“The Innovation Award rewards our nature and our path”, comments Farroni, “but above all it gives an important meaning to the value of scientific research, in its strength as a driver for business development and for the cultural growth of an Italy that knows how to retain its talents and produce technological excellence recognized all over the world”.
MegaRide, development on two new fronts
The MegaRide ride continues. The team of over 35 people, professionals with at least 6 years of experience in the field working between the UniNa Tire Lab of the Federico II industrial engineering department and the office in the Campania NewSteel incubator, takes up scientific challenges every day which then become business challenges. The effect can be seen on the turnover. “Revenues have increased by 65% in the last year, despite the tail end of the pandemic crisis, and forecasts for 2023 are for a further increase of around 40%,” anticipates Farroni. “In the wake of this growth, we plan to create two new new areas, in collaboration with industrial partners, on specific areas with important development prospects”. Which, for the moment is still top secret.
Tech transfer can therefore work and when it happens it also has a social impact: “Bringing real challenges to the context of academic research, which we ourselves supervise, means making the team’s scientific outputs grow in competitiveness and concreteness. On the other hand, being able to offer new graduates employment opportunities in highly attractive sectors favors their permanence in the area and avoids the so-called brain drain”. Thus a young company that arises from the skills and knowledge of the academic world ends up becoming an element of interest and attraction for people and capital that also arrive from abroad. “It can be done,” concludes Farroni. “A system of technology transfer and business creation, based on knowledge and consistent use of institutional support, is feasible and even desirable”.