Interview with PAOLO ZANNINI
University of Modena- Chemical Science Department, Italy, and President of the Italian Ceramic Society
Q. What is your general assessment of the traditional ceramic industry in Iran?
A. I was well aware, coming to Teheran, of the importance of Iranian Ceramic Industry, that brought Iran at the 4th world place as Tile Producer, and soon at the 3rd place, according to the installed production potential. I often have reports about Iran from Italian machineries producers, exporting to Iran, through their Technicians, when coming back to Italy.
Q. Can you give us an insight of the direction Iranian industries in the future?
A.The global market of Ceramic Tiles had an impressive change in the latest years, related to many factors, like the increasing quality of life in many countries and the relative ask for better houses/home, the possibilities to obtain new clays and other raw materials from many new suppliers, the development of technologies, like Ink Jetting of decorations and glazes, that allow producers of not-traditional countries to obtain tiles at very high level of quality, etc.
Iran, due to the economic and technical capabilities was able to well propose itself in the global market, and I think that in the next future its development will be still increasing, may be not in a double-digit way, like the previous years, but continuously. In this way very soon it will be necessary a further increase of quality and of selling policies, to afford theneed to increase the exports.
Q. Have the new technologies been utilized properly?
A. The skills and potentialities of the Iranian Ceramic Tile Factories Manpower, for what I can hear, will have to increase soon, to be able to have quickly all the advantages offered by the technology developments.
During my stay at the ICTS-2014 I had a very good impression of the knowledge level of the Students and PhDs I could meet, but the level of competencies and ceramic culture that are at the productive units seems to not be exactly the same. To be able to obtain all the best from a new technology it is not enough to have a good contact with the foreign supplier, but it is very necessary to build around the country a real “Ceramic Culture”, able to help to analyze the production problems, and to solve them by the propter actions. Without this step, the production will be always a repetition of things that someone else invented…
Q. Did you find any elements of creation done by Iranian industries?
A. I do not have enough knowledge of the Iranian products, so that I can express a real opinion.
I have to remark, nevertheless, that the new technologies, if properly integrated by an “original” Ceramic Culture, like I was telling in the previous answer, can quite easily bring to original and very good results.In this context, of course, it will be very important the application of new professional, able to link the world of art, design and architecture to the technological one, able to transfer new aesthetical concepts into technological instructions for the machineries in the plant.
Q. Iranian Ceramic Society is ready to make arrangements with overseas institutions to make a better future for national ceramic industries as well as graduated students. What kind of agreement do you suggest we could make?
A. This is, of course, a very good beginning ! May be a good starting point could be the exchange of Students and Professors, so that the mutual knowledge can increase, understanding where are the critical points. Then, in Italy like in Spain or in Turkey, there are many experiences about Technological Centers or institutions able to represent a good linking point among Academia and Industry
Q. Do you think your institution have anything to offer on this?
A. Obviously the University of Modena has, among its duties, also the one to favor the exchange of people, when the proper Charts are signed, The same, surely, for the Universities in Spain and in Turkey…
The Italian Ceramic Society could act as coordinating point of cultural activities, like Conferences, Meetings, publication of manual and technical books. Also the possibility to organize Schools and Courses can be considered, as it is a traditional activity of ICerS ( … yes: we have the same acronym, like for Iranian Ceramic Society and Italian Ceramic Society !).
Q. The university-industry relation has been a long standing issue in Iran. In traditional ceramic industry, there is almost no relation on the researches. We would like to have your opinion on the issue.
A. The relationship among University and Industry is difficult in whatever country ( may be only Spain could, in previous years, organize a good interaction … ). This is due to the fact that the Industries expect for a quick, private answer on applied researches, while the nature of the academic research is more devoted to base-research, to be eventually shared among many partners. Moreover there is a practical career-problem linked to the research in the traditional ceramic field: the career of the Scientists is more and more influenced by the type of publication, article etc. that is presented to the community, and they are very important some appreciation parameters, like Impact Factor figure, Citation Index etc., that, unfortunately, are not so well represented within the Magazines and Journals referring to Traditional Ceramic. In this way a young Scientist is scarcely interested in applying himself in this field.
I don’t see, nowadays, an easy solution to this problem: the only possibility that I can figure is to increase the PhD grants given by the industry, to let the Scientists and the Technicians co work, increasing the mutual knowledge. This means, for the Industries, to invest in a long term research, not looking for the immediate result.