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FARE INSIEME - Ep. 177 - Astra Research, that endless thread connecting universities and businesses in the name of excellence

«The beating heart of our business is the brand-new research and development laboratory»



A story that links the university and business worlds. We find ourselves in Modena, where a spin-off was set up that has become a point of reference in the mechanical engineering consultancy sector, a partner for businesses on the path towards excellence. For FARE INSIEME, Giampaolo Colletti interviews Roberto Rosi, CEO of Astra Research

by Giampaolo Colletti

Photocredit: Giacomo Maestri e Francesca Aufiero

One thing leads to another. So only nice things can happen when ambition equals dedication, perseverance and the wish to make a difference. After all, this is the story of an entrepreneurial adventure consisting of four people who became business partners after their PhD. A story that takes shape on those university staircases that have been climbed thousands of times years before, come rain or come shine, with your heart racing because of an exam or filled with joy for the objectives achieved. We find ourselves in the east of Modena, in that area home to universities and companies. This is the story of Astra Research, a university spinoff of the Enzo Ferrari Department of Engineering at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.      

The beginnings and the present. Everything started in January 2008, in the iconic spaces that were an expression of a university committed to churning out talents from scientific and managerial studies. Four young graduates embarked on this adventure: Roberto Rosi, Matteo Giacopini, Andrea Salsi and Andrea Baldini. All born between 1975 and 1977, and all with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. “What started as an ambitious project grew and developed over 16 years of intense activity. Today, Astra Research is much more than a company, it is an actual point of reference in the mechanical engineering consultancy sector, a partner for businesses on the path towards excellence. We already had contacts with a few businesses and we realised there was a considerable discrepancy between what companies required and what we did at university,” explains Roberto Rosi, CEO of Astra Research. From there came the choice to do something concrete.  The headquarters cover over 500 sq m: a place where creativity and innovation combine, giving life to engineering solutions that go beyond national borders and reach the global scenario. Last year, the experimental department was extended with a warehouse 500 m from the headquarters covering 600 sq m and featuring everything from test benches to the acquisition of component data. “The beating heart of our business is the brand-new research and development laboratory, a place where ideas take shape, where research becomes tangible innovation,” says Rosi. A proximity that is also physical with that university world that united them. “We remained close to our university, just a stone’s throw away. It’s like we never left it,” stresses Rosi. The team is made up of over 30 specialists with an average age of 33, all of whom boasting transversal skills ranging from the automotive to the biomedical, earthmoving, hydraulic, mechanical, aerospace, packaging, agricultural, pharmaceutical and food sectors. A significant objective was reached in 2023 when the company exceeded €2 million in turnover. “But this success does not only involve numbers, it is the tangible result of the trust the main Italian players in the mobility and manufacturing sectors place in us. We are proud of walking alongside these excellence, contributing to shaping a future in the name of innovation and solid partnerships. After all, each project is a story we write together with our clients, a chapter that tells the story of challenges overcome and objectives reached. Astra Research is an ally that emotionally commits to each step we take together,” illustrates Rosi.      

Breaking down barriers. This is where the barrier between academia and company are broken down, creating synergies that give life to unique and adaptable solutions. “Over the years, we have cultivated and preserved our university DNA, maintaining a direct connection with universities which is much more than a simple collaboration, but a strong and meaningful bond. Every year, we welcome many students working on their dissertations and entering our eco-system, which represents a real added value because of their technical and human baggage. Young graduates who stand out thanks to their value and passion are offered not only the opportunity of entering the world of work, but actual growth through a stable contract with a value that goes beyond the mere economic aspect: the possibility of being involved in activities with international companies adds a further layer of experience and professional growth,” stresses Rosi with pride. That visceral connection with the land, an outpost for the future, is highlighted further. “We have strong roots in our beloved Modena, the cradle of passion and engines, that intertwine with the dreams that have fascinated us since we were young. Cars were never just a dream, but a source of incessant inspiration. The roaring of engines is the soundtrack to our lives, the call of a passion that has been leading us since we took our first steps. The story of Enzo Ferrari, the visionary man who challenged the world, is a myth and an inspiration to us,” says Rossi. After all, the future is tackled better thanks to those past masters who showed us the way.

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