Cuts hit Italy's Brain Return project

May 19, 2006

An ambitious programme to bring expatriate academics back to Italy and attract foreign researchers has been frozen due to lack of money, writes Paul Bompard in Rome.

The "Brain Return" project was launched in January 2001 just before the centre-left government was defeated by the conservative coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi. It promised to reverse Italy's dramatic brain drain and restore research to international levels.

But under the 2006 budget of the Berlusconi Government, which was beaten in last month's election by a centre-left coalition, the funding for the programme was cut. The 2006 budget was criticised for reducing spending on higher education, but the demise of Brain Return was hidden in the small print.

Fabrizio Gallanti, 36, an Italian architect who had moved to Chile and had a contract with the Milan Polytechnic, said: "Nobody told us it was cancelled - we discovered it by chance on a website."

It is not clear what the new Government, led by Romano Prodi, will do in 2007. Mr Prodi will have to deal with Italy's economic difficulties and the increase in budget deficits under Mr Berlusconi.

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