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Pirelli Annual Report 2022

The Editorial Project

Interviews with Pirelli’s employees

Veronica Stefanini

Material Compound Technologist

Artificial intelligence has revolutionised everyone’s lives, in everyday life as well as at the corporate level. How then has AI transformed your work within Pirelli’s teams?

AI is now an integral part of everyone’s life. We are now witnessing a real transformation in the way we live and work through tools that we would not even have imagined a few years ago and that we could only find in science fiction books. In my line of work, R&D in the field of formulating material compound recipes, artificial intelligence is often embodied in the word "virtualisation", which recalls the concept of performance prediction. This falls on the final action of control and power. The driving force of AI in the materials area is in fact linked to the primary desire to predict the properties and thus the performance of a given compound, and it is here that we deduce the advantage to be gained in terms of saving time, resources and money.

AI is making it possible to share more knowledge, to make know-how broader and more global. How much do you feel this in a company like Pirelli?

Behind the aforementioned concept of "virtualisation" in the R&D sector lies a diverse team comprised of data scientists, computer scientists, material technologists and experts in material analysis methods. The team works synergistically to develop software that has the potential to predict the performance of a given material based on the ingredients in a recipe, their ratios and how they are mixed together. To do this, however, it is necessary to teach the machine to think like a compounder with chemical knowledge. This is where the work of the data scientist comes in, who must translate chemical notions into algorithms that can be given to the machine so that it can learn and grow. If we think about it, behind this process there is not only the opportunity to save time during the development phase of materials for specific projects, but there is also the desire to improve and make knowledge-sharing more efficient. A practical example is the use of the software by a new employee: he or she can use the tool to understand the impact on compound properties of certain polymer changes or specific chemistries, thus saving time and resources.

Artificial intelligence and human beings are often talked about as antitheses, but what if we talked about integration, in Pirelli?

AI is associated with the concept of technology even though this might be a reductive definition, as it does not only involve the definition of methods and techniques for finding solutions to practical problems, but is a discipline that combines a multiplicity of sciences with the addition of aesthetics and the intriguing claim of creating an analogy with human intelligence. In my sector, AI finds its place by demonstrating the existence of a true human-machine interaction that is not viewed negatively: instead, it is seen as an opportunity for improvement and evolution. Change is often frightening, it challenges us, but it is also what sets us apart from other living beings, what moves us forward. Human beings have ideas, they create, they invent, they produce and it would be futile to try to slow down this process, especially when working within the research and development area.

Veronica Stefanini