Silicon Valley comes to Naples: Apple opens its iOS Developer Academy

The crumbling apartment buildings, the walls covered in graffiti or death notices, and the ubiquitous clotheslines draped outside people’s windows do not give the impression this particular neighbourhood is a technological hub.

San Giovanni a Teduccio, a downtrodden suburb of Naples is a far cry from Silicon Valley.

And yet it is right here – in this corner of the Neapolitan sprawl that has never quite recovered since a tomato-packing factory shut down in the 1980s – that the Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, hopes the best and brightest young minds in the world will come to develop into leaders in the new app economy.

A nine-month course, offered free of charge following a joint investment of about 10m euros by Apple and the Federico II University of Naples.

The academy will be housed in the gleaming new glass-faced buildings that are in stark contrast to the rest of the neighbourhood.

The large, open-plan classrooms were designed by Apple. Small groups of students will sit around tables equipped with special acoustic systems so the teachers can communicate with each table separately about their work. All courses are taught in English and are open to students from all over.

The San Giovanni a Teduccio scientific hub of the Federico II University of Naples and the territorial requalification: from industrial production to nurturing of talent

The San Giovanni a Teduccio University hub has been established in an area that since the early 20th century was the home to the Cirio industrial processing plant, the Italian consortium specialising in food preserves, with tomato preserves as its flagship product, a brand that achieved wide European acclaim for many decades.

The company was founded in 1856 by the Piedmont industrialist Francesco Cirio, who introduced a new can conservation technique, invented in the 19th century by Nicolas Appert. This technique allowed fresh products to be processed and canned without deteriorating. The Turin processing plant thus began large scale production of these products which were then exported worldwide. After the Unification of Italy, the company opened a series of production plants in the South of Italy, one of them in Naples in the San Giovanni a Teduccio district, where farmland was reclaimed for the purpose. This in turn led to the birth of Ciriosocietà generale conserve alimentary (Cirio general food preserve company) and the Neapolitan plants became the most productive of all and in the 80's the one located in San Giovanni a Teduccio became the company's national headquarters.

The site of this major plant, which was later abandoned, was then taken over by the San Giovanni a Teduccio University hub, a solution devised in order to free space for the Engineering faculty of the Federico II Naples University in Fuorigrotta, thus setting in motion the requalification of the entire area east of Naples. The over 3000 students enrolled in the Engineering faculty account for 25% of the faculty's student population. Overall, the faculty has around 17.000 students; so freeing up new classrooms and labs was clearly essential in order that the faculty could maintainits competitive edge. It has often been proven that the positioning of a well-attended faculty represents the best possible flywheel for urban requalification.

With this aim in mind the works were included in the memorandum of understanding stipulated on 31 March 1998 by the Minister for Universities Luigi Berlinguer, the President of the Campania Region Antonio Rastrelli, the Mayor of Naples Antonio Bassolino and the Dean of the Federico II University FulvioTessitore. In particular the Ministry and the Region committed to funding the works, while the Council was responsible for reviewing its urban planning instrument to include the Campus project and the University engaged in a European purchase from the former Cirio plant's official receiver.

The next stages, that is to say the final purchase of the former Cirio plant area, the tender for the selection of the planner, the executive design, the tender for the executive designing and construction and the start of the works took place with Guido Trombetti as Dean and professor Edoardo Cosenza, head of construction techniques in the department of structural engineering and architecture, at first as construction delegate and from 2005 onwards as Chair of the Engineering Department. The choice of assigning the final project to the Japanese group Ishimoto Europe was based on the rational approach presented for the works: an underground parking area to ensure no cars were visible on the surface, the complete and total opening of the area to the citizens with the ground level given over to a vast green park area. What's more the exceptional Japanese architectural firm designed the first two floors in lava rock, a reminder of the presence of Vesuvius to the south and in any case very much in line with the local tradition, while the upper floors appear to be embedded in the lava stone, with extremely modern glass façades and colourful loggias.

The labs, brought together under the heading CESMA (Experimental Centre for Advanced Measurements), were first opened in 2015. Built with European funds, they are equipped with state of the art equipment pertaining to the environmental, civil engineering, aerospace and mechanical sectors, as well as hydraulics, cold and electricity measurements, advanced mechanics, sports engineering and virtual reality. The educational centre, with over 1000 seats available in the very modern classrooms and the stunning suspended main Lecture Hall with 3D projections, Super HD Screen and Dolby Surround audio were inaugurated in September and October 2016.

New classrooms are still under construction along with the new spaces for a number of CNR Institutes, funded by the Region with European funding, first secured by the Caldoro regional government and now confirmed by the De Luca Regional Assembly.

The success of the Hub is easily ascertained: over 800 students have asked to enrol in order to be able to attend courses at the San Giovanni Hub. The potential catchment area is after exceptionally  vast, and includes the entire Sorrento peninsula, the councils beneath the Vesuvius, the areas around the Sarno valley and the eastern reaches of the city of Naples.

The beauty and efficiency of the hub, along with the international tradition of the Federico II University, has enticed the Apple multinational corporation that in October 2016 installed its first European School (iOS Academy) on the premises; the agreement between Apple and Federico II will enable the training of 1000 developers over the course of the 2016-2018 three year period who will then become a part of the Apple ecosystem. They will be trained as entrepreneurs with extensive IT knowledge, but also great familiarity with business plans, design processes and all that is required to create successful, interesting and commercially viable Apps. The convention can be renewed for another three years for another 1200 students.

Other international groups are also taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Hub, such as the AXA Matrix group that specialises in natural event risk analysis and consulting.

The main lecture hall is used for conferences but also for film showings which take advantage of on its highly technological facilities. The park is already a very welcome feature for citizens, who are particularly fond of the old smokestack, now used as a vent for the air conditioning system, and the wooden cross which was previously located above the Cirio plant entrance, was preserved by former factory workers for over thirty years and has now been placed in a special space in the park and is once again consecrated.

Consequently the Hub will increasingly become a centre for interaction between education, research, CNR (National Research Centre) and advanced industrial and business groups, leading to significant training and job opportunities. It will also bring about the full requalification of what was a beautiful part of the city, close to the sea and on the way to the Vesuvian villas. An area that subsequently became an industrial district but has since been deserted and marginalised. An extraordinary example of requalification that has been greatly appreciated by the European Commission as a benchmark for good practices in the use of European funding. 

Silicon Valley comes to Naples: Apple opens its iOS Developer Academy

The crumbling apartment buildings, the walls covered in graffiti or death notices, and the ubiquitous clotheslines draped outside people’s windows do not give the impression this particular neighbourhood is a technological hub.

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