The “AREA System”: attracting researchers and innovative companies and developing methodologies and services in favour of competitiveness
The “AREA Science Park System” comprises the multi-sector Science and Technology Park where over 2,300 hundred researchers are engaged in research, development, and innovation activities, and the “Consortium for the Technology and Scientific Research AREA in Trieste”, which was established to manage the Park and foster its growth, and which since 2005 has been recognized as a “National Public Research Institution” by the Ministry of Education, Universities, and Research.
Over 2,300 researchers working on over 80 innovative companies and national and international research institutes: this is the scope of the Science and Technology Park, which hosts various research sectors:
- life sciences
- physics, materials and nanotechnology
- information technology, electronics, and telecommunications
- energy and the environment
- qualified services
The Park is managed by the Consortium for the Research Area, which since 2005 has been recognized as a “National Public Research Institution” by the Ministry of Education, Universities, and Research.
In addition to developing methodologies for the management and promotion of a Science and Technology Park, the AREA Consortium aims to become the reference institution in Italy for technology transfer policies, the management of business training, and the development of collaborative networks between the science and industry sectors at the national and international levels.
Consorzio e Parco AREATechnology transfers
Technology transfers to the private sector are AREA’s trademark activity, including at the international level, with intervention strategies aiming to encourage innovation and competitiveness in private firms, create start-ups, train personnel, and promote skills that can help establish links between the research and productive sectors.
In a regional business fabric comprising mostly small and medium enterprises, over the last ten-plus years AREA has pursued a programme to support the introduction of new technologies and organizational skills. During this time, about 2,000 interventions to innovative SMEs in Friuli Venezia Giulia have been carried out, with significant impacts in terms of product and process innovation, new patents, and new collaborative efforts in the technology field, in addition to a proven increase in turnover and employment for the firms who benefited from these interventions. Through the INNOVATION NETWORK project, AREA has opened six centres throughout Friuli Venezia Giulia specializing in providing support to firms belong to clusters or districts of vital importance for the region’s economy: agro-industry, energy, business engineering, wood and furniture, shipyards, plastics, and new materials. This network is accessible throughout the region in the relevant business structures (employers’ associations, industrial areas, productive districts) and is staffed by professionals with specialized technical skills; it constitutes a veritable reference point for sectorial innovation.
Promotion of research and relations with the university sector
valorizzazione della ricercaThe AREA Science Park has close, well-structured relations with the university sector. Researchers and professors from Italian and foreign universities are working in some of the Park’s research institutes, including, among others, INFN (National Institute of Nuclear Physics) , IOM-CNR (Institute for Materials– National Research Council), Sincrotrone Elettra, CBM (Consortium for the Centre for Molecular Biomedicine S.c.ar.l. ), LNCIB (National Laboratory of the University Consortium for Biotechnology)
Additionally, the Science Park has established scientific partnerships with Friuli Venezia Giulia’s universities in the fields of technology transfers to local firms and promotion of research results. With regards to the latter, specific agreements have been reached with the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), the University of Trieste, and the University of Udine within the framework of the SISTER project dedicated to the research system in Friuli Venezia Giulia. These agreements led to significant achievements: 279 research results were identified as worthy of valorisation and were the target of 580 valorisation and support interventions.
These activities led to:
- 70 new patents,
- about 40 commercialization interventions aimed at reaching licensing agreements or research-private sector partnerships
- 9 spinoffs.
Patents and patent information
Over the last five years, technology transfers and the promotion of research results in Friuli Venezia Giulia contributed to about 160 new patents (2/3 from private firms, 1/3 from research institutes). An estimated fifty-plus patents have been granted to AREA Science Park’s firms and research institutes over the last two years. With regards to patent information, thanks to an agreement between the European Patent Office and its Italian counterpart (Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi), the Friuli Venezia Giulia Studies and Patent Information Centre (PatLib) has been active in AREA Science Park since 1999. The Centre provides services to businesses, researchers, and private citizens. It carries our research and provides copies of relevant patents thanks to the patent, document, and economic databases available on the market and information from national and international patent offices. The total number of actions carried out by PatLib (clearance searches, monitoring of competition, state of the art in technology, searches for technological solutions, monitoring of the activities of individual researchers/firms) amounts to over 1,600.
Finally, thanks to an agreement with SBI - Strategic Business Insights of Stanford (California – USA), world leader in the monitoring of business-generating technologies, AREA has made available to Friuli Venezia Giulia’s SMEs “Explorer”, a Business Intelligence tool that makes it possible to obtain targeted information on trends in over 30 technological sectors, and which produces innovative technological road-mapping services.
Startups and spinoffs
Business incubation and the launch of new start-ups is another leading field of activity. Over time, about forty new businesses were created at the Science Park, of which about 30 are currently housed there. In particular, the Science Park launched the Innovation Factory programme, a natural outgrowth of the extensive experience acquired by AREA Science Park in providing assistance for the creation of innovative firms. The Ministry for Economic Development granted a € 2.5 million loan to Innovation Factory for an “integrated programme for the creation of new firms”, for which AREA earmarked some of its own funds, for a total of about € 3.7 million. Over the last few years, IF has evaluated about 200 proposals, supported the development of 25 business projects, and launched 4 new firms. An additional 5 initiatives are expected to see their market launch this year.
Additionally, AREA is launching a programme to attract spin-offs and start-ups, with the goal of providing facilities and logistical and support services for business growth at subsidized rates. The initiative is dedicated to spin-offs (firms working in the hi-tech sector and including at least one university researcher/professor) and start-ups whose mission is to develop innovative, hi-tech products and services. Eligible firms must be micro-enterprises or SMEs that have been active for less than 48 months.
The attraction programme calls for:
- the attraction programme calls for the application of subsidized rates for the leasing of facilities (chemical-biological laboratories, other labs, and offices) for the first two years,
- access to furnished offices,
- the free use of conference rooms, and the provision of various specialized services for business growth (technology foresight services, business analysis and evaluation, services for strategic and organizational innovation, etc.) provided either for free or at subsidized rates.
Training and internationalization
AREA is active in the strategic and operational management of training, with a particular focus on business and management training.
The promotion of international relations in research and innovation is another important asset. It has beenformazione e internazionalizzazione developed through collaboration in European projects and through consulting and support in the planning of scientific and technological hubs (capacity building). Thanks to Trieste’s position straddling an international boundary, AREA enjoys very close ties with countries in central and eastern Europe and beyond: there are active collaborations with over 30 countries, and over 350 partners working on various projects.
AREA hosts the regional desk of the Agency for the Promotion of European Research (APRE), which provides information and consultancy services to businesses and scientific institutions interested in participating in EU calls for proposals. Thanks in part to this service, over the last several years the Consortium has been awarded about 50 European projects (about 200 if the entire AREA Science Park system is included), with over 200 universities and research centres as partners.
Internationalization will continue to be one of AREA’s strategic development centres in the coming years, since it makes it possible to valorise the professional networks that AREA has built over time, and since it provides access to financial resources that are currently unavailable in Italy due to the pressing need to cut public spending.