Science and technology as a driver of recovery

The third edition of the “Research and Innovation Report” was released today. In Italy, there is a slight recovery in spending on research and development in relation to GDP, in working staff and a large amount of scientific publications is confirmed. The proportion of the population with PhDs, the proportion of women in STEMs and the gender pay gap remain critical. “Overcome some old logic” recommends University and Research Minister Maria Cristina Mesa. “The CNR should combine the role of conducting research with that of the agency,” notes National Research Council President Maria Chiara Carusa.

The third edition of “Italy Research and Innovation Report – Science and Technology Policy Analysis and Data” is the work of a working group of various institutes of the National Research Council: Research in Population and Social Policies (IRPPS), Research on Sustainable Economic Growth (IRCRES), for Studies on Regional Systems Federalism and Autonomy (ISSIRFA). This report sees light after two years of the epidemic and health emergency that put our country’s research institutions at the fore, both in finding appropriate solutions to the problem and in communicating the activities and research available. This release also launches a reflection of the role attributed to research and development (R&D) through the extraordinary measures to support the economies of member states, which are being promoted in Europe by governments and the European Commission in response to the pandemic crisis. Will the NRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) make Italy a quantum leap towards a sustainable economic model, driven by research and innovation?

“The National Domain Name Registry (PNRR) constitutes one opportunity and may not be repeated: to create the virtuous circle between research, innovation and the economic and social development of the country; to launch numerous scientific and technological development projects and new collaborations between the academic world, public administration, local authorities and industry; for a public-private collaboration with a view to solving major societal challenges Maria Chiara Carosa, President of the National Research Council. “These conditions must be maintained by ensuring sufficient normal resources even when the extraordinary resources of the PNRR have exhausted their mission.”

In the process, the National Research and Development Committee will be able to measure itself in the actions envisaged in the PNRR with a double contribution: “On the one hand, the CNR, with its multidisciplinary scope, can directly implement research and development projects. On the other hand, it can contribute to the design and management of Funding instruments, mediating between government and the research community, scientific organizations and companies.The National Commission for Scientific Research must increasingly combine research with agency work, reclaiming the central role it has already played in the past, just think of the final projects, which it already plays in coordinating many structures European research infrastructure,” President Carriage stated.

The PNRR places the research policy within a broader transformation of the Italian economic system. “Public research aims to play the role of a multiplier capable of stimulating investments in private research and innovation, with the aim of creating ecosystems in which ideas can be transformed into new products, processes and services, in order to create high value-added jobs, by engaging the most dynamic productive sectors in international markets” , they follow “The Report” coordinators Daniel Archiboggi, Emanuela Reale and Fabrizio Tozi. “Therefore, public research actors must take a central role in the design defined in the PNRR as by working at the frontiers of science they can open up new technological pathways. These institutions must therefore be ready to meet the challenge through a wide range of actions, interventions and solutions envisaged in plan and ensure that the planned investments have tangible repercussions on society and on the national social and economic system.”

The third edition of the “Report of Research and Innovation in Italy – Analysis and Data of Science and Technology Policy” was presented today at the headquarters of the National Research Council, in the presence of, among others, University and Research Minister Maria Cristina Mesa. Minister Mesa commented, “Even looking at the data in the report, it becomes clear that as a scholar of research, we have to overcome some old logic.” Among these is the contradiction between basic and applied research: research must be of quality and so funded, whether motivated by curiosity or applied research, which must co-exist without opposing or transforming one into the other. We must also overcome the preconceived notion of the separation between public and private research, which separates companies with which research institutions have always revitalized collaboration, while universities have gone through different stages, a gap that must be bridged. Stimulating large supply chains through invitations to tender is exactly a response in this sense, without introducing new institutions or research institutions, but connecting with what is already good. We must understand that if we win this challenge as a research scientist, we become essential to the country, because we create spin-offs, startups, proof-of-concepts, jobs, and opportunities for young people. This is the real challenge we face.”

Highlights of the third edition of “Report on Research and Innovation in Italy – Science and Technology Policy Analysis and Data”

– In general, the resources for research and development envisaged in the National Rehabilitation Program amount to approximately 17 billion euros, which is approximately 7.5% of the total resources. Most of them focus on applied research and experimental development (about 10 billion), basic research (4 billion), review procedures and support (1.88 billion) and technology transfer (380 million).

– Regarding European framework programmes, our country contributes 12.5% ​​to the community research budget, but the money back is only 8.7%. This is also based on the fact that there are fewer researchers in Italy than in our partners (6 out of a thousand units of the workforce, compared to more than 10 in France and Germany). However, it is also necessary to increase the success rate, especially in the coordination of proposals, which in our country is 8.6%, while in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Belgium it ranges between 14 and 15%..

Internal competition for international funds leads to punitive “closed circles” and fuels regional disparities. For projects in the highly innovative and attractive life sciences sector, there is a strong north-south polarization, with a clear disparity also in terms of GDP per capita. Looking at the prestigious provinces as centers of international cooperation, Milan is the richest and is primarily as a center of knowledge, followed by a notable distance from Bologna, Rome and Florence. The few provinces in the south at the upper end have much lower GDP per capita than the center and north, with negative implications for the role they can play in knowledge.

– Only 0.5% of the working-age population in Italy has a research doctorate, compared to 1.2 for the EU average. Doctoral students are also well below the EU average: 0.14% versus 0.28%. It is necessary to increase the number of PhD holders, about 10 thousand students annually, with better prospects, to make a leap in technological and productive specialization towards sectors and industries with high knowledge content.

The employment rate of PhD holders is 93.5%, but less than half believe that they are fully exploiting the knowledge gained in the labor market. The share that is employed in the private sector is less than 10% in industry and 8% in professional, scientific and technical activities. In Italy there is rarely a PhD in the industrial sector.

– To increase the professional career of a doctorate in industry, a new classification has been introduced, the industrial doctorate, in which the doctoral student is led by academic and academic tutors and carries out part of his career in the company. To further the Industrial Ph.D., Confindustria and CNR have developed grant projects in which research and business are the protagonists of a process aimed at meeting the needs of companies. The first trials seem to offer encouraging signs.

– The share of women has grown, and they represent more than half of PhD holders. However, there is polarization, with men occupying 60% of places in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and women 58% in other subjects. There is also a salary gap of about 312 euros per month in Italy and 209 euros abroad, a gap in medical sciences, where, 4-6 years after graduation, men earn up to 704 euros more than women.

A large part of our students earn their Ph.D. degrees abroad. In Austria, France, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States alone, there are more than 12,000 Italian students attending PhD courses. Italy hosts students from other countries with a rate of 15.7%, which is significantly lower than the Netherlands (44.0%), Belgium (41.4), the United Kingdom (42.5) and France (38.2%). Students in Italy come mainly from emerging countries, with Iran, China and India in the top three. Many medical researchers in Italy find work abroad, about 13% after a few years, which indicates the good quality of the training they received. The sectors in which mass migration is strongest are STEM: 32% in the physical sciences, 27% in mathematics and computer sciences, 19% in industrial and information engineering. This professional placement outside Italy is not surprising: 6 years after graduation, the average monthly income is equal to 1679 euros in Italy and 2700 euros abroad.

– With regard to spending on research and development in relation to GDP, there is a slight recovery in Italy that led to 1.4%, also due to the fact that public allocations have stopped shrinking. The trend of personnel assigned to research and development (in relation to a thousand units of the workforce) is also increasing, thanks to the increase in the number of employees in companies that have reached 218 thousand. As far as scientific production is concerned, the academic and research community that responds to institutional skepticism has been emphasized by the creation of a large amount of scientific publications (scanned by the world of science) as a share of the world total, approximately 5% despite gradual progress in China and with increasing influence. Patent production still lags behind countries like Germany and France (4,600 Italian patents were filed with the European Patent Office in 2020, compared to 25,954 in Germany and 10,554 in France), even if the proportion of applicants per 100,000 inhabitants showed improvement.

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