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Enrico Mattei, the innovator


27 October 2021 - 15.30


22 October 2021

On 27 October we mark the anniversary of the death of Enrico Mattei, founder and first chairman of Eni. Mattei was a key figure in post-war Italian history and a major player in Italy's energy policy from 1945 to 1962.

Fifty-nine years om from his death, the legacy of Mattei's contribution to the development and economic recovery of Italy remains for all to see. Since then, Mattei's values - innovation, passion for challenges, faith in young people, integration and research, among others - have shaped Eni's approach and become the heart of its identity. The ability to see the big picture as we confront today's challenges and look to the future is an enduring part of our identity.

When Italy's war ended with defeat and devastation, the country's economy ground to a standstill. Mattei immediately saw that methane, an energy source hitherto unknown in Europe, was the key that would enable Italian industry to unlock the great economic boom of the 1950s.
From 1949 to 1953 the Italian gas pipeline network grew at break-neck speed from 257 km to 2064 km, making it the third largest in the world after the USA and USSR. It was a gamble that soon paid off, making it possible to supply gas across Italy quickly and cost-effectively.

A master of networking, Mattei struck up a partnership with Italcementi, Fiat and Pirelli that would make him one of the founding fathers of the Autostrada del Sole, the artery connecting the north and south of the Italian peninsula. This forged a new physical connection between Italians in the era of mass motorisation, encouraging them to move around the country. It was in these years that the Agip network of service stations was created, allowing motorists not only to fill up with fuel but also to stop and rest - essential for safe travel. Once again, the pace of work mirrored the pace of the new ideas, with the construction of around 400 service stations a year throughout the country, made possible by their modular architecture.

Energy supply remained a constant necessity for Italy, which had a paucity of raw materials and was grappling with the reconstruction. Mattei once again took on a major challenge, signing an agreement with Egypt in 1954 that shook the world oil scene to its core. In the face of the 'colonialist' contracts practised by the big oil companies, since the 1950s Eni has chosen to rebalance the regulatory regime and develop equal relationships with producer countries, laying the foundations for a model of responsible economic development. Under Eni's agreement, oil producing countries have an active and equal decision-making role through the establishment of joint ventures, as well as permanent professional training for local supervisors and managers. 'The oil belongs to them', as Mattei was fond of saying, in the belief that producer countries had to become autonomous in terms of energy supply, choosing the path of dialogue and cultural respect.
This relationship forms the basis of what has become Eni's commitment to sustainable development.

The quest for innovation - as a way of being more than a way of operating - have seen Eni's laboratories in San Donato Milanese become a flagship of scientific research in Italy. Promising chemists, physicists, engineers and biologists selected from Italian universities continue to pursue an interdisciplinary approach, catalysing a virtuous circle between academic and professional training that remains fundamentally important to job creation in Italy. Internationalism and experimentation are at the heart of Eni's training, dating all the way back to the 1958 launch of the Scuola Superiore di Idrocarburi (Advanced School of Hydrocarbons), which welcomes students from all over the world. The company's choices on corporate welfare were equally as innovative and culturally significant, with communities and homes for employees, the company magazine Il Gatto Selvatico (The Wild Cat), and strategically sited work locations.

In line with this approach, the company even took inspiration from the international style of the United Nations building to build its head office in Rome. Designed by the great architects Marco Bacigalupo and Ugo Ratti, with its twenty floors it was for a long time the highest building in the capital after St. Peter's. With its steel structure, curtain wall and aluminium and glass elevation, the building still stands proud over the lake in the EUR district, reminding us of the living history of our company. The building still has a special charm and remains a source of inspiration. One example is the documentary film ‘Il lucido prisma' (‘The Lucid Prism') by a former employee, Marco Migliozzi, which we will screen on 27 October at 3.30 p.m. as part of the festivities to mark the memory of Enrico Mattei. The film shines a light on all the architectural details of the building, showing how EUR looked yesterday and today, and telling stories that will help us to relive the path travelled by Mattei and our company.

A sociology graduate, Marco Migliozzi is a student and devotee of photography. He exhibits shots taken during his extensive travels and has published work on Repubblica.it and in National Geographic. He works in visual art and computer graphics, across the communication and publishing sectors. Migliozzi produced and directed Eni's safety awareness video clips, teaches basic and advanced photography courses and speaks at events