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“Big data” scientists:
The latest challenge under the Mole of Turin*

Italy, April 25, 2017
Stefano Parola

“There are companies who have understood that they are sitting on a treasure trove of data to exploit,” says Laura Sacerdote, coordinator of the University course that will graduate the first wave of data scientists. But this is not the only sign of movement around the "big data" phenomenon.

Data scientists:
The latest challenge launched under the Mole of Turin*

From Advice to Evo Pricing: startups linked to big data grow and the university is preparing to graduate the first 29 doctors in this field.

“There are organizations and companies sitting on a treasure trove of information that is used very little. But now they are beginning to understand that such amounts of data can be exploited,” says Laura Sacerdote, professor of Probability and Statistics at the University of Turin and coordinator of the specialized degree in "Stochastics and Data Science”. 

It is a very young study area, fully taught in the English language, which in July will give academic titles to its first "data scientists". There will be 29 and there are already some companies that hope to be able to hire them. One such company is Evo Pricing whose founder, Fabrizio Fantini assures us “Today Turin is the best place to deal with big data.”  

He is a young man, born in the Italian region of Molise, who, in the past never had any connections with the city of Turin. However, Fabrizio has chosen Turin as the base for his startup, created after getting a PhD in mathematics at Harvard University and after a few years of work at the multinational corporation McKinsey. Evo Pricing, which is headquartered in London, is one of the companies that has chosen to ride the big data phenomenon. “We help big companies to make decisions, by predicting the amount of goods to be sold,” summarizes Fantini.

The company has designed a system based both on the analysis of large amounts of data obtained in the past, and on the experience of the shopkeepers who must sell the products. "We combine human and artificial skills to predict how many goods will be used in warehouses, how to set prices and when it can be useful to do promotions,” explains the founder. One of his clients is the Miroglio company. The textile company, located in Alba in Italy, was among the first to believe in this startup, which today has 18 collaborators, with 9 of them working in Turin. “By the end of this year we will add other 3-4 staff,” says Fantini, who is expecting the first graduates from the University of Turin.

Evo Pricing is not the only entity hunting for data scientists. Even a big company like Intesa Sanpaolo is looking for them but, in general, it is the whole commercial system that has become fascinated by this theme: “Today there is a very strong demand in these fields, and it seems that companies have suddenly realized this,” explains Laura Sacerdote. The European Union is very much concerned with this issue and research done by the European Parliament concludes that this business segment may be on the brink of an economic boom: from now to 2020, employment in Italy could grow by 11%, according to the more favorable scenarios.

In Turin we can already see some movement. For example, there is an organization like Advice Group that exploits big data to improve business marketing. “We analyze user behaviors to build loyalty logic,” explains the CEO and founder, Fulvio Furbatto. Instead of applying the usual loyalty points collection, the customer becomes loyal by observing what he does on social networks. “We started 5 years ago and today the market has grown a lot. Among our clients there are brands such as Peroni, Unipol, Bulgari and Barilla,” explains the entrepreneur. He adds that in Turin he can count on a team of about 40 employees and has just opened Advice Lab, an incubator for digital marketing startups hosted in the technology hub of Trentino Sviluppo in Rovereto.

Another young enterprise is Oval Money, which works between London and Turin. It has created an app that lets you track all your accounts simultaneously, and that uses big data to find out how some people can save more money than others. “Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, we work with big data with the purpose of helping people spend better and set aside money,” explains the co-founder, Claudio Bedino.

Professor Sacerdote believes that all this could signal the dawn of a new vocation for Turin.. 
“Data has been collected more or less well, but they are already at our disposal. Now it is necessary to study them and create models that will allow us to predict the future.”

*The Mole Antonelliana is a tower which is the symbol of Turin


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