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Boosting research talent in Italy


Stefania Giannini, Italian Minister of Education, Universities, and Research, outlines to AG how the Ministry are investing in research talent to boost science in Italy

What makes a European Country competitive and attractive in the 21st century are not natural resources, or merely the cost of employment protection legislation. Conversely, its ability to innovate, to create and to disseminate knowledge will ensure a sustainable future to our citizens and encourage investors to bet on Italy.

Since the beginning of our term, the Italian government has invested on the quality of the human capital, considering it as a key factor for the necessary socio economic transformation and development. Knowledge and education really make the difference for the future of our globalised societies and economies.

With this belief, in last 3 years, Italy has completely overturned the paradigm for education and research policies.

Boosting research talent in the country

Starting with universities, our policies are oriented firstly to renew the human capital of professors and researchers. We want to attract the best global and European talents, facilitating brain circulation towards Italy.

This twofold goal will be achieved through the recruitment of 500 new full and associate professors supported by the “Natta fund”. Moreover, an extraordinary plan has been launched in order to hire new full professors and more than 1000 researchers in the universities and in the public research agencies.

Our wider, but feasible ambition is aimed at stimulating the creation of an ecosystem open to investments and partnerships from the private sector and from foreign countries.

Only such an ecosystem will allow us to fully emerge our strengths that we assume here as a point of departure for the next challenges. The quality of Italian publications, for example, is certified by the high number of citations, on average comparable to Germany and France performance, with some peaks in medicine and engineering.

Having said that, the National Research Program (hereinafter NRP) constitutes the master-plan of the research for the next 3 years, ensuring that Italian research policies are contextualised in a consistent, predictable and selective framework.

We conceive this plan as the innovative industrial policy for the scientific, economic and social growth of our country.

The NRP will invest €2,5bn in the next 3 years, an unprecedented budget that allows us to attract additional national resources. More than 40% of the budget will be devoted to the Human Capital Program: we expect to have more than 6000 researchers and PhD students at the end of the plan.

Other measures will be carried out in order to reinforce the Public-Private Partnership and Industrial Research Program.

The NRP paves the way for a better innovation ecosystem and selective funding of joint public-private initiatives. It provides the national research system with an intermediate infrastructure of soft-governance, the National Technological Clusters, which are in charge of proposing technology roadmaps on a national level in different fields.

In addition to this comprehensive master-plan, the Italian government has set a challenge towards 2040: to become a world lead in personalised medicine, oncology and neurodegenerative diseases through the development of an intensive, cross-disciplinary project. Actually, a comprehensive approach to health and ageing (human technologies) does not yet exist, in part because of the necessity to integrate cutting-edge technologies with high-profile basic and translational science in critical areas of medicine, data science, nanotechnologies and nutrition.

Italy wants to fill this gap through a large-scale, cross disciplinary research infrastructure, named “Human Technopole”, which will encompass the synergistic development of fundamental and clinical genomics, nutrition, innovative algorithms for data analysis, multiscale methods in computational life sciences and advanced technologies for food and diagnostics.

The “Human Technopole” will be created in Milan, in the Expo area, by 2018 together with a strong international recruiting action to secure top talents from all over the world. It will host at steady state more than 1,500 researchers (1000 staff units + 500 PhD students), with a strong reverse brain drain effect.

The government will finance the project with €1.5 bn in 10 years.

We conceive it as an asset of a broad strategy that firmly believes in Italian potential to anticipate and create the future through the ideas and the research shared and tested with other scientific communities all over the world.

Italy’s present and future competitiveness will depend largely on its ability to transform talent into development, by increasing the knowledge component of our economy and finding new answers to the challenges of society, markets and the environment.


Stefania Giannini

Minister of Education, Universities, and Research

Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research

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