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Home > Press > Nanotechnology in Italy is Shifting into High Gear

For centuries, Italy has well served its reputation as a center of cultural and scientific innovation. From its role as the cradle of the Renaissance - when the region produced some of the most enlightened scientific thinking in human history - to its current-day fame for producing some of the highest-performing automobiles in the world, Italy has always had a solid place among technology leaders. Now, with an integrated approach and a serious commitment of public investment, Italy has applied a characteristic sense of purpose and flair for innovation to its growing nanotechnology R&D effort.

Nanotechnology in Italy is Shifting into High Gear

Cambridge, MA | Posted on April 28th, 2008

For a survey of Italy's rapidly growing nanotechnology efforts - public and private - the Italian Trade Commission, a Platinum Sponsor of Nanotech 2008, refers to the Second Nanotech IT Census of Nanotechnology in Italy, conducted in 2006 by AIRI/Nanotec IT, the arm of the Italian Association for Industrial Research (AIRI) concerned with coordinating industry, public research, and governmental institutions to promote nanotechnology and its applications.

The census identifies a wide-ranging collection of 185 private companies, institutes, and research centers responsible for Italy's nanotechnology research and development. Sixty percent of these companies are public research groups and forty percent are private enterprises, the number of private research groups having doubled since 2004, according to Elvio Mantovani of AIRI/Nanotec IT in Rome. In fact, nanotechnology is a top priority of the 2005-2007 National Program for Research (PNR), and national funding dedicated to nanotechnology development is estimated to have approached €70 million for 2007 alone.

"Italy's R&D in nanotechnology is at present quite intense, but to keep pace and compete successfully, AIRI/Nanotec IT is actively lobbying for the creation of a national initiative for nanotechnology, as exists in many of the countries leading the field," Mantovani said. "It would help to increase funding and the rate of progress, further promote excellence, focus our resources, and better exploit the key features of Italian nanotechnology, such as good basic research, a strong R&D base involving academia and industry, a range of activity that covers the key areas of nanotech, and the potential for innovation."

On the public front, nearly all of the country's universities and national research organizations with technology programs are actively engaged in R&D efforts relating to nanotechnology. And following the successful approach of other industrialized countries, resources, sometimes located in different places, have been focused on common objectives and placed under centralized direction to better coordinate individual efforts and increase overall operational efficiency. A number of nanotechnology ‘Centers of Excellence' have been created by Italy's Ministry for University and Research (MUR) at several universities.

The MUR has also supported the establishment of regional high-tech clusters, or ‘technological districts,' across the country, several of them having nanotechnology among their priorities of research. In particular:

* The Friuli/Venezia Giulia District, being managed by the Center for Molecular Medicine CBM S.c.r.l., and specializing in the development of advances in the field of nano-biotechnology.
* The Campania District, managed by the District of Polymer and Composite Materials Engineering and Structures IMAST S.c.a.r.l., focuses on polymeric and composite materials R&D.
* The Umbria District, managed by DTU-Umbria Region, and relying on the University of Perugia for research, dedicated to metal materials, micro and nanotechnology, and mechatronics.
* The Veneto District is being managed by Veneto Nanotech S.C.p.A., a consortium composed of the Veneto Regional Council, leading regional research centers, and three universities - Padova, Venice, and Verona. It is focused exclusively on nanotechnology.

In the industrial community, nanotechnology is also gaining attention. Well known large enterprises are actively involved in the field, including Fiat, Pirelli, StMicroelectronics, ENI, Bracco, CSM, Olivetti, Colorobbia, Saes Getters, and the Finmeccanica Group, with its companies Selex Sistemi Integrati, Selex Communication, Alenia Aeronautics and Alenia Space. Typically, these companies' R&D is connected to their core businesses, whether materials, automotive, ITC, electronics, aerospace and defense, or health.

In addition to large companies, there is also an increasing number of SMEs active in nanotechnology. In effect, SMEs represent more than 60% of the industrial players identified by the Nanotec census, and their activity spans a large spectrum of applications, from materials to sensors/devices, surface treatments, instrumentation, health and medical systems.

While the true potential of nanotechnology is still being defined around the world, Italy's growing efforts are positioning the country to assume its customary place as innovator in the world of science and industry. And with an international market for nanotech products and applications that has been projected to grow in the next decade to over $600 billion annually, that means that Italy is poised to enjoy a healthy future return on its R&D investment.

At Nanotech 2008, the ITC, assisted by AIRI/Nanotec, will be representing these exhibiting organizations:

AIRI/Nanotec IT
Centro Ricerche FIAT ScpA (CRF)
NANO_MATES (Research Centre for NANOMAterials and NanoTEchnology at Salerno University)
Colorobbia Italia S.p.A
Veneto Nanotech S.C.p.a.
Politecnico di Torino
Dipartimento di Ingegneria dei Materiali e dell'Ambiente Facolta' di Ingegneria I Universita' degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
I.N.S.T.M. - Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per la Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali

The Italian Trade Commission promotes collaboration between Italian and international companies, largely by organizing the participation of Italian companies in trade events in more than 100 countries around the world.

Visit the ITC, a Platinum Sponsor, at Booth #903.


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The Nano Science and Technology Institute (NSTI) is chartered with the promotion and integration of nano and other advanced technologies through education, technology and business development. NSTI accomplishes this mission through its offerings of continuing education programs, scientific and business publishing and community outreach. NSTI produces the annual Nanotech conference and trade show, the most comprehensive international nanotechnology convention in the world. NSTI also produces the semi-annual Nanotech Venture, Nanotech Industrial Impact Workshop, Nano Impact Summit and the Nanotech Course Series in the US and Europe. NSTI was founded in 1997 as a result of the merger between various scientific societies, and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts with additional offices in California and Switzerland.

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