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Italy’s recovery plan: the numbers are in

An overview of R&D investments in the government’s scheme. On 12 May, Nature Italy invites readers to an online panel about what the plan means for Italian science.

Leggi in italiano

Prime Minister Mario Draghi presents the National Resilience and Recovery Plan in the Italian Parliament, on 27 April 2021. Credit: Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which outlines how Italy will invest more than €200 billion from the European Union to emerge from the pandemic crisis, has been submitted to the European Commission. The government, led by Mario Draghi, presented it in parliament last week, and sent the final version to Brussels on 30 April.

The investments on "Education and research", the fourth of the six "missions" on which the plan is based, have not changed significantly from the previous draft presented in January. The total funding for this mission amounts to €33.81 billion, corresponding to 14% of the whole plan. For the most part (€30.88 billion), the investments come from the EU’s actual Recovery and Resilience Fund, which spans five years until 2026. Additional resources come from ReactEU, another European fund for short-term investments, to be used by 2023, and from complementary national funds (see the table below for details).

Within education and research, the largest slice (€19.4 billion) will go to improving education services and infrastructures at all levels, from kindergarten to universities – including €430 million to add 3,600 new PhD grants.

The rest, corresponding to €12.92 billion, falls under "From research to business", the part of the PNRR that will have the highest impact for scientists, universities and research institutes. Among other things, it funds curiosity-driven research projects by senior and junior scientists (€1.8 billion and €600 million respectively); large collaborative projects involving universities, research institutes and companies (€1.61 billion, aiming to finance up to 15 projects); new research centres on key technologies such as quantum computing, biopharma, agritech, fintech and others (€1.6 billion); and several projects to support technology transfer, industrial research and industrial uptake of research results (over €4,5 billion), including collaborative PhD programmes set up jointly by universities and companies (€600 million for 5,000 grants).

In addition to these funds, which will be managed by the Education and Research ministries, other parts of the PNRR will also impact research spending: for example, €1.29 billion will be spent on satellite technologies and space activities; €5.9 billion for research on renewables, and €160 million for research on hydrogen. Another €520 million will be used for biomedical research, particularly that bridging the gap between research and clinical applications.

On 12 May, Nature Italy hosts an online conference and roundtable to discuss the contents of the plan and its impact on the future of Italian research and innovation. We will be joined by Italy’s research minister, Maria Cristina Messa; Elena Cattaneo, member of the Italian Senate and professor at the University of Milan; Ugo Amaldi, a physicist who in 2020 proposed a plan for increasing Italy’s spending in basic and applied research; Maria Sabrina Sarto, deputy rector for research at Università di Roma La Sapienza, and Alison Abbott, former European correspondent for Nature.

Click here to register for the event.

Investments on “From research to business” in Italy’s recovery fund

Intervention areas and actions

Funding (in billion Euros)

1. Strengthening research, new models for fundamental and applied research done in collaboration by universities and industry

6.91

1.1 National research programme and research projects of national interest (target: 5,350 research projects)

1.8

1.2 Projects by young researchers (up to 2,100 researchers)

0.6

1.3 Partnerships between Universities, research institutes and industry on basic research (up to 15 collaborative projects, average budget € 100 million)

1.61

1.4 New centres for R&D on key enabling technologies (selected through a competitive call)

1.6

1.5 Innovation ecosystems and local R&D leaders (12 projects, selected through a competitive call, covering education, research, start-ups and community involvement, and involving Universities, companies and local institutions)

1.3

2. Innovation and technology transfer

2.05

2.1 IPCEI (contribution to European-level projects based on public-private partnerships)

1.5

2.2 Partnerships on H2020 projects (support to the participation of Italian companies in H2020)

0.2

2.3 Centres for technology transfer (60 centers across Italy)

0.35

3. Support to research and innovation

2.48

3.1 New fund for an integrated system of research infrastructures (30 infrastructures, existing or new, to bridge academia and industry)

1.58

3.2 Funding to start-ups (up to 250 companies)

0.3

3.3 Joint PhD programs based on industries’ needs (up to 5,000 grants)

0.6

4. React EU (additional EU programme for the period 2021-2023)

0.48

4.1 PhD and post-doc contracts on innovation

0.145

4.2 PhDs on the green economy

0.18

4.3 Post-doc contracts on the green economy

0.155

5. Innovation partnerships (further funds for technology transfer and applied research, from national complementary funds)

1

TOTAL

12.92

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