Fabio Ferrari (Symbio): “We had to explain to the employees that we trusted them”.


Fabio Ferrari, the founder of Symbio, believes that the company will no longer work as it used to.

Founder of Symbio, a start-up specializing in hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles (acquired last year by Michelin and Faurecia), Fabio Ferrari explains how the crisis has changed the company’s management and why he remains optimistic about the future.

I have the feeling that we are in the process of making lasting changes to the way we work. With employees, and even with customers, the crisis spinner has created a distancing that will undoubtedly last. In the past, we used to place great importance on meeting each other, but this is no longer so important today. We had to learn how to use new tools, and we passed the psychological threshold of entering new modes of communication.

We also had to adapt to each other’s constraints. Meetings now only take place between 9 AM and noon or between 2 PM and 5 PM I myself have learned to take a few minutes between meetings to relax and look out the window.

One thing that particularly surprised me was that we had to explain to the employees that we trusted them, even though we could no longer walk behind them to check that they were working. Some of them were afraid of their jobs! We also had to find a way to maintain the feeling of belonging to the company, despite the distance.

Meal trays

We are currently working on how to increase capacity at each of our three sites, where test benches and production are carried out. Sanitary measures that were initially set up as rules of exception need to be adapted to last. I think we’ll be here at least until September.

The canteens are closed, the 25 employees who come to the sites today take meal trays or eat cold. But that’s only for a while. We also must find a way for them to get closer to each other, with glass or Plexiglas partitions, for example.

Our goal is to bring about 100 people back to the sites, out of the 230 that Symbio has. For the moment, I’m touching wood, so we should be able to deliver to customers as planned. The business has slowed down at their sites too, but it will pick up again. We have to be prepared.

A Question of Sovereignty

I’m not really worried about the future. It’s true; there is a risk that manufacturers will cut their investments in hydrogen, which is a long-term R&D issue. But I remain convinced that this will not be the case. They know that they have to build their future; it’s a question of sustainability and sovereignty. If they slow down, they won’t catch up. In China, the mass is being said about hydrogen, which is what prompted Volvo and Daimler to announce their alliance on the subject this week. In any case, that’s what I’m defending. And our shareholders Michelin and Faurecia are convinced of it too.

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