IBM signs first major contract for former Milan Expo grounds

$150m contract for new health research centre.

The new “human technopole” research centre planned by the Italian government for the area used by Expo Milano 2015 is beginning to take shape.

Under a contract signed by undersecretary Ivan Scalfarotto during prime minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to in Boston this week, data processing giant IBM will invest $150m (some €135m) in a European Centre of Excellence. Here, scientists, researchers and engineers from the wholly-owned IBM subsidiary Watson Health will study “big data” on population ageing and develop data-driven solutions for health.

The project, says IBM, is part of a long-term collaboration with the Italian government and its initiative to establish an international hub for the advancement of genomics, big data, aging, and nutrition in Milan, in line with the aims of Expo 2015.

The research centre is intended to encourage the development of a pan-European ecosystem for healthcare reform, research, and health-tech start-ups. IBM data scientists, engineers and programmers will work in collaboration with organizations across Europe to create new cloud-based connected solutions at the intersection of cognitive computing, life sciences and healthcare.

"Italy is important to IBM, not only because of the creativity, skills and talent of the country's workforce, but also because of the government's efforts to digitise Italy's economy," said Erich Clementi, senior vice president of IBM Europe.

IBM also stated that the choice of location was influenced by Italy’s commitment to health and wellness, evidenced by the fact that it has the world's second highest life expectancy in 2013 and low infant mortality, a healthcare system that is ranked second according to the World Health Organization, and the third best medical performance worldwide.