Seven universities, 43 research institutions, 115,000 students, over 4,000 teachers and researchers and 1,500 research fellows. These are the numbers of the Tuscan ecosystem of innovation that has been at the centre of the “La ricerca va in scena” event, organised by the Region today at the La Compagnia di Firenze Film Festival.
Representatives of institutions and researchers discussed the importance of public investment in research and development, a sector for which Tuscany has allocated over €1,500 million over the last ten years, an increase of 41% from 2006 to 2016 that puts Tuscany in eighth place among the regions of Italy, well above the national average.
“This morning we want to talk about policies in support of higher education and research, from the orientation of young people towards university courses to the right to study, through to the collaboration with universities on Pegaso doctorates and research grants” explained the vice-president of Tuscany Monica Barni, who opened today’s conference. “We know how much public investment in research is lacking in our country, but without research, there is no innovation, without research our companies are not on the labour market,” Barni concluded.
The picture painted by the councillor shows a dynamic and attractive region: while 6% of Italians live in Tuscany, 12% of publications, 13% of projects funded by the European Research Council and 15% of European projects are carried out here. There are 115,000 students: 67% from Tuscany (only ten out of a hundred go to study outside), 30% from the rest of Italy and 2.6% from abroad. In short, a Tuscany, as far as research and higher education are concerned, decidedly capable of attracting talent, also thanks to investment in the right to university education. In fact, Tuscany manages to award grants to 100% of eligible students, for a total of 13-14 thousand beneficiaries on average each year.
Minister of Education, University and Research Lorenzo Fioramonti also believes that research is crucial for the growth of the economy, when participating in the Florentine event and in particular in the round table discussion between institutions and rectors of Tuscan universities.
“Research is the secret to development,” explained Fioramonti, “without research there is no development, especially in an economy like the extremely advanced modern ones, which are increasingly accelerating and linked to innovation. Tuscany can be a reference point for the country, especially when you can build system models, when you put all the resources together and manage to team up”.
Discussion also focussed on the value of research in the cultural sector, a theme on which the Region has invested with the call for proposals “100 researchers for culture”, which this year has allocated €4.7 million for 111 grants and 77 research projects, carried out in collaboration between universities and research institutions in Tuscany. Tuscany Open Research, the policy-support platform that tells the story of the Tuscan system of research, innovation and higher education, was also mentioned.
During the conference, two scientists working in Tuscany were also awarded a career award: Leonardo Masotti and Rino Rappuoli. The first is the president and founder of El.En, a Calenzano-based company founded in 1981 to develop and manufacture laser systems used to restore and clean works of art, but also in medicine to monitor, for example, the development of the foetus or to perform otherwise impossible surgical operations. His company today employs 1,400 people: proof of how research generates development. Rino Rappuoli, microbiologist, is the scientific director and responsible for external research and development activities at Gsk Vaccines of Siena, another world-renowned company.
“I am proud of this award as a citizen as well as a scientist,” said Masotti, “because it means that in our country we recognise values and confirm the focus on activities that can lead to results that have improved the quality of human life.”
Cinema La Compagnia is also exhibiting twenty innovative projects financed by the Region thanks to the Far Fas call for proposals. Like Eolo, which has developed several systems to exploit mini-wind power, i.e. the air displacement produced for example by car traffic, or Vita Nova, which has developed an App for women in menopause. And then there is Moscardo, which protects historical buildings through a network of sensors, or Sciadro, which uses swarms of drones for environmental monitoring.