From the university to business, from innovation to company. When it comes to these axes – fundamental to the creation of competitive companies and to attract investors – Tuscany is not unprepared. It presents a strong institutional front, constituted by the abundance of academic institutions and research institutes focused on applied research, as well a strong business aspect, with some niche exemplars that benefit from technologies as well as highly qualified “Made in Tuscany” personnel.
One of the entities that focuses on research with an innovative approach is Lens, the European laboratory for non-linear spectroscopy, born at the University in 1001 as a research center focused on lasers based on a multi-disciplinary approach. “The innovative notion was to create laboratories in collaboration with the university and ensuring that the campus also include various institutions (such as the CNR [Centro Nazionale per la Ricerca, National Research Center] and the Scuola Normale di Pisa),” explains Massimo Inguscio, one of Lens’ founders and board member. In this manner, this field of study serves as a point of convergence for researchers from different fields and diverse backgrounds who share the instruments, experiences and ideas with outcomes that have lead to new research frontiers. Born from a group of scientists focused on atomic physics, Lens has developed four areas of research that have brought it even closer to the applied sectors: atomic physics, photonics, molecular dynamic reactivity and biophysics.
The Scuola Superiore S.Anna of Pisa is the region’s reference point for applied. The areas of excellence for the research center, which counts six research institutes and 800 apprentices in university and post-doctoral studies – underlines Provost Pierdomenico Perata – are in agrarian sciences, engineering divided into robotics, photonics, and computer sciences, as well as in medical science. In 2013, S.Anna obtained approximately 14.5 million in research funds. The statistics provided by the institute indicate the presence of more than 500 active research projects that have, to date, given life to 41 spin-offs and 116 active patents. “Due to a strong collaboration with many groups that operate in Italy or on international markets, we have the opportunity for an effective transfer of technology – explains the provost while commenting on the institute’s relationship with industrial entities. The outcomes of our research activities are not only published on the key scientific journals, but are also efficiently transferred into applications. In some instances, we were able to patent the results of our research. In many cases, patents were developed in collaboration with businesses.”
The ability of creating highly qualified professionals capable of working in successful international teams is another of Tuscany’s academic and research systems’ assets. These are what make it a traditional basin from which Tuscan and international businesses geared towards innovation, excellence and willingness to grow on the international markets attain their resources. Among them we find Gilbarco, a group that originated in Florence and developed into a leader in systems to manage and distribute fuel at service stations. Florence and Tuscany, notes Gilbarco president Paolo Sorrentino, provide an added value to business, specifically in terms of personnel – almost all of the team’s Italian engineers come from Florentine universities, and present the right qualities to be integrated into a high-level company like Gilbarco. The strategic position at the heart of Italy and Europe and the availability of logistics and transportation infrastructures are other factors that invite the group to continue wagering on Florence.
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