Five Takeaways from the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26)

As is well known, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) includes a package of investments and reforms divided into six missions.

Mission 4 “education and research” provides for the allocation of 33.81 billion euros and is aimed at strengthening the educational system, digital and technical-scientific skills, research and technology transfer. The objective is therefore to encourage innovation in a digital key, supporting the transformation of production processes of companies.

In particular, the component of Mission 4 called “from research to enterprise” aims to support investment in R&D, to promote innovation and the spread of technologies and to strengthen skills.

The objective is, therefore, to resize the transfer chain in territorial terms, and in order to complete this innovative process – of which technological development represents the keystone – the tools available are:

  1. Partnerships extended to universities, research centers and companies;
  2. “National champions of research and development” (National Centers);
  3. “Innovation Ecosystems” as territorial leaders of research and development;
  4. The Research and Technology Infrastructures of Innovation.

We have already discussed extended partnerships in the article “The key role of the private sector in the technological development process: extended partnerships”; let’s now look in detail at the other three instruments.

Technology Transfer Centers

The CNs are aimed at the creation and/or renovation of research infrastructures and laboratories, at the implementation and development of research programs and activities, at encouraging the birth and growth of entrepreneurial initiatives with higher technological content such as start-ups and spinoffs from research, and at the valorization of research results.

These are aggregations between universities and research organizations organized with a Hub & Spoke governance structure. The Hub – organized as a foundation or consortium – will carry out management and coordination activities while the Spoke will carry out research activities.

The role of private entities appears to be very determined since they have the opportunity to participate in the CN from the moment of its establishment. The active participation of the private sector is then demonstrated by the possibility of taking part in governance as well as promoting scientific and research activities. Also in terms of the evaluation of applications, private entities will be able to contribute to the CN’s activities by sharing research infrastructures, proposing technological solutions and financing doctoral programs.

It has been foreseen the creation of 5 NCs that will be structured around the following themes:

  1. Simulations, Computation and High Performance Data Analysis
  2. Agricultural Technologies (Agritech)
  3. Development of gene therapy and drugs with RNA technology
  4. Sustainable mobility
  5. Bio-diversity.

Also the selection and recruitment of companies will be managed by the NC, which will have to ensure equal opportunities, transparency and overcoming territorial gaps.

Innovation ecosystems

The innovation ecosystems are another tool designed to encourage and facilitate the technological process, accelerating the digital transformation of the production processes of companies.

Resources will be allocated to finance applied research activities, training to reduce the mismatch between the skills required by companies and those offered by universities, the exploitation of research results with their transfer to business, support the birth and development of start-ups and spin-offs from research, promoting the activities and services of incubation and venture capital funds.

The ecosystems act, according to the needs of the territory of reference, on areas of technological specialization, industrial and research that are presented as a grouping of universities, public research institutions, local authorities, other public and private entities highly qualified and internationally recognized.

The MUR will support the creation of 12 Ecosystems of innovation at territorial, regional or supraregional level, of which 5 in the South with the aim of promoting and strengthening collaboration between the research system, the production system and territorial institutions.

The Hub – consisting of universities and public research institutions, with the possibility of involving also local public bodies and/or other highly qualified public or private subjects carrying out research activities – is responsible for the start-up, implementation and management of the Ecosystem. The realizing subjects are, instead, public subjects or private economic operators involved in the realization of the research and innovation program. It is clear that also in this instrument the role of the private sector – or better the collaboration between public and private sector – appears more important than ever in view of the accomplishment of the innovative process.

Research infrastructures

Research infrastructures are structures designed to provide resources and services to the research community in order to carry out research activities and promote innovation.

Their use may extend beyond research as they may also support, for example, education or public services. In addition, they may be in one location, spread across multiple locations, or even virtual.

Research infrastructures refer to the set of equipment, collections, scientific data, information systems and communication networks, any other research infrastructure of a unique nature, accessible to external users.

The MUR will finance 20 Research Infrastructures and 10 Technological Infrastructures of Innovation to carry out research in various disciplines with the aim of making national research competitive at the European level and to encourage close integration between companies and the world of research and innovation to support the economic growth of the country.

In order to facilitate the creation, but also the operation of these research infrastructures, a specific legal form is foreseen: the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) to encourage the creation of new infrastructures. These are consortia under European law set up, on the initiative of the scientific communities, by a group of countries and by decision of the European Commission. They are, therefore, networks based on unique and competitive research collaborations – both in quality and size – at the international level, which aim to make Europe an integrated nation by connecting universities, clinics and research centers.

As with all PNRR initiatives, the Plan’s transversal criteria will have to be met, which include, among other things, overcoming territorial, gender and generational gaps, as well as respecting the principle of “do no significant harm”.

The need that emerges is, therefore, to resize the transfer chain in territorial terms, hoping that the speed of execution of the projects – guaranteed by the simplification of the tools – will be able to generate an increase in productivity. Through the creation of highly qualified structures and with the integration between the public and private system, it will be possible to lay the foundations for a lasting and sustainable development of the economy.

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