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FARE INSIEME - Ep. 162 - Pollution Analytical Equipment, a combination of people and technologies that rewrote air analysis

«Our will to change has remained unvaried»



A company was set up in Budrio, in the Bologna area, that is now a global leader in the field of volatile compound analysis. The company has been focusing on “open innovation” before the term was even coined in the world of research. Today, the company boasts 40 employees with an average age of 35 and a turnover of €5 million which should reach €10 million over the next three years according to estimates. For FARE INSIEME, Giampaolo Colletti interviewed Matteo Monticelli, Managing Director of Pollution Analytical Equipment.

by Giampaolo Colletti

Photocredit: Giacomo Maestri e Francesca Aufiero

The greatest intuitions are truly cutting edge as they are ahead of their time. This is what happened to a sturdy Emilian company when it began as a start-up. The idea was linked with controlling the hygiene in hospital working environments which, at the time in the 1990s, was not discussed much. Yet it was precisely from this intuition that Pollution was born in Budrio, a town of 18 thousand inhabitants east of Bologna. It was here that the ocarina, the wind musical instrument, was invented by Giuseppe Donati in 1836. And it is here that, one and a half centuries later, a company was set up that provides instruments to analyse what are known as volatile compounds, i.e. air analysis possible thanks to hi-tech monitoring solutions. Anti-pollution equipment that served as protection against chemical risks. It is a family business run by two brothers who share an ambitious mission: to improve people’s quality of life. Easier said than done. That is where the combination of market and scientific research come in. “We always try to keep on top of market evolutions with technological innovation. At the time, there was no culture regarding chemical pollution and little attention was paid to the quality of work environments, so we based innovation on the continuous monitoring of environments. Today, attention to the environment is much more rooted, but there are still unresolved issues such as the management of smells, not to mention the new opportunities linked to green gases, which in fact see us involved in new technological challenges,” illustrated Matteo Monticelli, Managing Director of Pollution and the second generation running the company.      

Company profile. A family business, as we mentioned before. Because this unique small-medium business began with his father Paolo, who was born in 1949 in Copparo, in the Ferrara province. A powerhouse of ideas. A past as an employee, who then became an entrepreneur. Multiple profiles in one person: Palo trained in electronics and telephony, but soon made the switch to the medical sector. There, something changed, as Monticelli explained. “At the time, we had set up multiple diversified businesses. Now we focus on a single unique technology known as “micro-gas-chromatography” and have carved out our own space in new emerging markets. There are no more than five companies worldwide working in them. When it comes to technologies as well, the strength is in developing them to become leaders in specific applications.” The turning point came in 2016 also thanks to our winning the Horizon2020 European tender and our entry into the gas market.  Today, the company boasts 40 employees with an average age of 35 and a turnover of €5 million which should reach €10 million over the next three years according to estimates. Half of the sales are made outside Italy and our clients - both public and private - belong essentially to the two sectors of environmental control and gas quality control.      

Hi-tech solutions. Optimizing industrial processes, especially in the production and distribution of green gases such as biomethane or hydrogen thanks to continuous chemical analyses. This is Pollution's ambition. “This means reducing waste and polluting emissions as well as increasing operating efficiency, thus contributing to a safer, more ecological and cost-effective industrial management... in one word: a more sustainable one,” explains Monticelli. After all, these technologies help guarantee the safety of people and communities, in some cases also enabling prompt intervention in the case of emergency situations. The world trend is to produce gases from renewable sources to limit greenhouse gases and become less fossil fuel reliant. This is where the new Pollution analysers come in, essential to monitor and optimize gas production and management processes. “We entered a growing market where the technological challenge to sustainably produce new gases is a high-level one. Our “lab-on-a-chip” technology applied to on-site chemical analysis consists in incorporating the analytical lab functions traditionally carried out on wider dimensions and with a wider time-frame into small silicon chips,” points out Monticelli. This is the astonishing revolution of small silicon chips: a technology that enables the conduction of top-level chemical analyses directly online minimizing energy consumption, the use of technical gases, analysis times and costs.  The strength of miniature technology. In the meantime, almost 20% of the profit is destined to R&D and the company is today among the few European champions, as it was awarded important research projects such as FP7 and Horizon 2020 financed directly by Europe. Pollution holds various international patents and collaborated with important research centres, including CNR in Bologna. “We have made open innovation our mantra before the expression was even coined,” says Monticelli. A combination of skill and technology that exists in few industrial businesses on a global level. “Our will to change has remained unvaried! We always feel imperfect and so we always strive to improve our work. We are now focusing on energy gases, which have nothing to do with anaesthetic gases and businesses of the past. Plus, where else would we find a district such as this one, teeming with skills, technologies and people who want to cooperate just like us? Nowhere. In other places, the value chain is much more fragmented, while 95% of our suppliers and partners are located no more than 200 km from the company,” concludes Monticelli. Once again, the future is made up of a multitude of people.

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