Italians launch research funds

September 6, 2002

The University of Padua and a local industrialists' organisation have set up a system of investment funds that is expected to raise €25 million (£16 million) to finance research.

The scheme will also involve private-sector firms in Italy's economically thriving northeast in the commercial exploitation of research. Institutional investors will provide the financing in the belief that high-quality research and the effective marketing of its products will pay off.

The project is awaiting the final go-ahead from the Bank of Italy and is expected to take off in late 2002 or early 2003.

Francesco Favotto, dean of Padua's economics faculty, is supervising the economic side of the project. "Until now efforts to create scientific parks and to involve private industry in research have largely failed, except in cases in which there has been massive financing from the state," he said. "This programme will obtain funding from a number of important Italian banks, and then involve the many small and medium-sized companies in the northeast in the industrial applications of the fruits of the research."

The idea is to run about 100 research projects. Each will be run by scientists but will have a "business angel" to monitor the commercial potential and to act as a go-between with the private-sector companies. Projects will be selected by an advisory board of scientists, economists and business experts.

The hub of the programme is a Societa Gestione Risparmio (SGR), or Savings Management Company. Padua University has a 30 per cent share; the Galileo Scientific Park 30 per cent; and the Padua Industrialists Association 20 per cent. E-Venture, a venture capital company, holds the remaining 20 per cent.

The capital collected by the SGR will be channelled into funds in the field of digital energy materials technology, biomedicine and pharmaceuticals, and marketing.

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