To meet what kind of need the project was created ?

FAIRE (FAshIon REplatforming hub ) is a HUB for digital innovation in the fashion and design sector, a driver of change for Lombardy's fashion, design and also retail companies. Its aim is to reimagine the supply chain of this sector to bring it in line with the current state of the art of those digital technologies that have come of age and become essential to ensure competitiveness with other international realities. In particular, the project will implement ad hoc solutions based on the tools offered by AI, Big Data, Cognitive Automation, RPA, and Deep Learning.

Within these technological areas, the consortium will implement specific vertical experimentation, as well as, training and technology transfer activities to foster the production of new ideas. Thanks to the participation of IULM and its presence in the training sector, the consortium will implement a master's degree to disseminate these skills and create a pool of professionals able to further develop this area.

Who are the project partners and how have they distributed their tasks?

The consortium consists of a number of excellent partners covering all the key points of the segment. In particular, we have Ds Tech, Live Tech, Fashion Technology Accelerator, Centro Ricerche E Studi Dei Laghi, IULM, Dedagroup, Triboo Digitale. Each of these partners has the skills and experience to deal with a specific aspect. Ds Tech is in charge of integrating the consortium in its entirety and IULM, in addition to offering its specific expertise in the field of fashion, design and communication, will take care of the management and design of the Master's course in order to disseminate the consortium's skills and results to a wider audience.

What will be the practical implications of the project?

The project affects all key steps in the fashion and design industry. The three key words are integration, uniformity and competitiveness. One of the weak points of the Italian situation is the fact that, especially in a traditional sector with a great past, often the result of individual initiatives and the creativity of small talented groups, there is still no uniform culture of using digital technology. It is important to act on a global level and not on the level of a single solution or a single problem. It is precisely for this reason that the Lombardy Region has been instrumental in creating a true innovation HUB that identifies and analyses critical issues, proposes new solutions in a coordinated and uniform manner, and finally disseminates them so as to generate not only solutions, but also a new business culture and integration between digital and the most creative and original aspects of the fashion and design sector.
The project is active in many areas: Demand Forecasting & Replenishment (where predictive solutions are being created that exploit algorithms from the world of AI and Machine Learning to automate the processes of replenishing continuous articles, reducing costs and increasing performance), User Experience Customisation (where solutions are being prepared that exploit natural language processing, text analytics and data mining, as well as semantic technologies and machine learning) interventions on the cataloguing process to make it more automatic, quicker and more fail-safe.
The hub aims to become a European centre of excellence in the field of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for the fashion industry. The Dissemination and Exploitation activities of the project will be dedicated not only to the Italian but also to the European market with the strategy of engaging stakeholders and future partners belonging not only to fashion houses, but also technology companies and universities.
IULM has thus planned a Master's degree in AI & Digital Solutions for Fashion, Design & Retail aimed at selecting professionals of excellence, selecting companies and solutions, using the project's experience and products as real case studies to offer first-hand and field experience, making available the state of the art of digital technologies applied to fashion, design and retail, showing the criticalities and strengths of the regional/national reality compared to the international world, also take into account the difficulties and opportunities brought about by recent changes in society as a result of the pandemic and technological evolution in general, combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with fashion, design and retail, and finally, we would not mind adding something truly innovative and forward-looking, such as an analysis and study of the possibility of using AI to create new products.

Does this type of innovation exist abroad and is it already at an advanced stage? How is Italy positioned in this sphere at an international level?

The Italian reality has always been characterised by a high level of creativity which, however, has often been associated with a certain craftsmanship that is certainly a strong point for guaranteeing originality and quality but, as the scale of companies and markets increases, it struggles to be competitive with an international world increasingly characterised by dimensions linked to globalisation. In this case, it is a matter of reaching the critical dimensions and volumes that allow one to be competitive and up-to-date without losing the individual specificities that enable Italian brands to offer something unique and valuable. This is why the possibility offered by the Lombardy region, namely that of creating a consortium like ours, is crucial and welcome because it will enable small and medium-sized enterprises, which alone could not access these leading technological domains.

What role did the Lombardy Region play and how much of a difference did it make to participate in the call for co-financing?

The Lombardy Region played a crucial role in creating the conditions for identifying strategic objectives at both the technological and territorial levels. As I mentioned earlier, these tools are fundamental in a situation where, in parallel with some very large companies, which therefore have the economic and human resources to create their own tools, there are many medium and small-sized companies that, despite having a great tradition and a quality product, are not, however, able, at least within the timeframe required by the very rapid evolution of the market, to access technologies and solutions for all areas of their business, with the risk of sub-optimal, insufficiently integrated, partial, or outdated solutions.
With this consortium (and other similar initiatives), the Lombardy Region creates the possibility of generating value against an investment that acts in a strategically successful manner, a flywheel is created that will allow a very large number of companies to improve their technological position and, hopefully, will enable these companies to have a uniform approach that will allow, at a regional level, greater synergy, integration, collaboration and, consequently, greater competitiveness at a national level.