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History

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1969-1989

Centro Sperimentale Metallurgico (since 1986 Centro Sviluppo Materiali) was founded in 1963 as a corporate organization and as a crossing point for steel producers and steel users. It was settled in Rome half-way between the northern-central steelworks (Genoa, Terni, Piombino) and the southern ones (Bagnoli and Tarent), within the area covered, at the time, by the special Reserve Fund for the Italian Southern Regions (Cassa del Mezzogiorno). In the Mid Seventies CSM became the Research Centre of the publicly-owned Financial Holding Finsider, its majority shareholder, whose subsequent financial crisis and break-up unavoidably involved CSM. In 1988 Finsider was in fact put into liquidation and started its restructuring process. In 1989 the radical restructuring of Finsider came to the end with the birth of ILVA still publicly-owned, however no longer as a holding but as a limited company.

CSM was also restructured. The new management drastically reduced the personnel, introduced new decision-making criteria and accounting rules, and assigned wider responsibilities to various company functions. Even the indoor architecture of the former building was modified. It was intended to give clear evidence of a discontinuity with the past.

1989-1993

 
A new awareness spread by which a research centre must primarily be an incubator of innovations which in turn has to generate new business. With the new management, CSM research activities, formerly oriented towards the timely responses to the problems of the steel industry, were addressed also to non-steel markets, with non-steel customers and non steel related technologies.
In spite of these new conceptions and objectives, CSM remained the corporate centre of ILVA. However, in 1993 only four years after its constitution ILVA, under the burden of huge losses, was put into liquidation too. The dualism between supranational and national industrial politics, which made a daunting task to get the two levels to agree, was once more the cause of this second failure. Following the ILVA liquidation, CSM definitively out of the package of steel industries, ceased to exist as a Corporate Centre. The end of the publicly-owned steel industry in 1995, and the consequent absence of stable references, exposed CSM to survival risks. During this highly difficult and uncertain period the strength of the ideas, the ruthless work and efforts of all the staff, the discovery of a new language for negotiation with the metalworkers’ union, were the crucial resources which led to the successful restructuring of the CSM and later to its privatisation process.

1994-1995

At the end of 1993, when the restructuring plan was set-up, for the first time the company’s management was entrusted to managers who were professionally born within the CSM, and thus represented at the same time the cultural continuity and the most valuable human assets.

 

In conceiving the restructuring plan it was necessary to take care of both short-and long-term needs. In the short-term it was needed to reshape the company in such a way to arouse interest in new possible shareholders and attract fresh financial resources. In the long-term it was necessary to put on place a self sustainable structure, able to operate and grow without any form of public subsidies or borrowing, to prevent any form of public or political interference on the company management.

Accordingly, the measures undertaken to implement the restructuring plan were aimed at diversifying commitments and customers, reducing the costs and increasing the labour productivity, rationalizing the operating structures, streamlining the decision-making process, and creating an international network of co-operation.

Commitments and customers diversification

Several measures were adopted for commitments and customers diversification. Some of them were:

  • Wide out-look towards the plant engineering industries, manufacturing companies, environment and energy issues;
  • Targeted marketing actions towards leading “innovative” enterprises, especially the medium size enterprises;
  • Promotion of CSM in the R&TD institutional system at central (Ministry for Scientific and Technological Research) and local (Science and Technological Parks) levels;
  • Increase of co-operative research within the EU Framework Programmes.

However looking at the forthcoming privatization process, further measures and criteria were deemed necessary and implemented:

  • The Economic Intelligence
  • The Human Resources motivation and the long-lasting learning
  • The concerted actions
  • The technology monitoring and foresight
  • The internationalization process
  • Easier administrative procedures and decision making processes

1997-2000

The privatization was a long and tricky path. It was necessary to find shareholders either non competing or operating in different manufacturing sectors with each other. It was feared that, if transferred inside the company, the competitiveness conditions might have rippled or delayed the decision-making process.
Accordingly, the confidentiality and intellectual property clauses, ruling the rights of industrial exploitation of research results, the templates of all contracts were entirely revised, and the articles of association totally reformed.

An additional obstacle to the privatisation was in fact the legal status as a limited company. It was impossible to conceive a financial-economic structure for the company able to assure whatever dividends to shareholders.
By contrast, due to the lack of national regulations and references at the international level, a new vision and concept of shareholdership were required. It was indeed demanded to overcome the usual concept of the company acquisition as a pure acquisition of financial assets.
An arbitration agreement among the several shareholders and the adoption of specific project based contracts were the final solution shared by all concerned. On this basis the privatisation process was completed in 2000.

 

2001 onward

At present, the CSM features the structure of an intersectorial, multinational company owned by several European and overseas steel producers, steel users, engineering and high tech companies.

Due to its legal status as a Limited Company, CSM stands as a unicum case in the panorama of European material research centres. Differing from these in fact, CSM operates on the research free market in those technological and commercial sectors not directly of interest to its shareholders.

Despite the radical changes in the company structure that took place after the privatization of the Italian iron and steel industry and its restructuring process, CSM was able to attain a key role in the “new” privatized steel industry in terms of ingenuity, efficiency and technological expertise. Owing to a fast and effective conversion and to the optimization of the capabilities developed in the complex steel production and control technologies, CSM can now serve, besides the iron and steel sector, big manufacturing industries operating in key economic sectors such as oil & gas, aerospace & defence, energy & environment, mechanics & transportation.

 

Short historical tale edited by Manlio Mirabile, former CSM’s Director

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