The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) is the document submitted to the European Commission by the Italian Government detailing how the Country intends to invest the financial resources of Next Generation EU (NGEU), the instrument introduced by the European Union to support a green and digital recovery of the economies of Member States following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main components of Next Generation EU are the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) package.
Including the REACT-EU funds, the Italian Government’s NRRP envisages an investment of approximately 15 billion euro to support universities, Higher Education in Art, Music and Dance (AFAM) institutions, fundamental and applied research, and innovation and technology transfer processes.
Research is one of the main components of Mission 4 – “Education and Research” – through which the NRRP aims to strengthen the conditions for the development of a knowledge-intensive, competitive and resilient economy, starting from the identification of some of Italy’s critical issues. These include: low level of expenditure on research and development (well below the OECD average), low number of researchers, loss of talent, low demand for innovation, and limited integration of research results into the productive system.
The Ministry of University and Research is involved in both the Components of Mission 4: Strengthening the supply of education services: from kindergartens to universities (M4C1) and From research to business (M4C2). The Mission is based on a number of key axes that represent the strategic goals of the NRRP in the Italian education and research sectors, including: the doctoral education reform and increase in the number of doctoral programmes offered, strengthening of research and promotion of innovative models for fundamental and applied research carried out in synergy by universities and businesses, support for innovation and technology transfer processes, enhancement of the enabling conditions for research and innovation.
With regard to the doctoral education reform, the PNRR aims to increase the number of scholarships, simplify the procedures for the involvement of companies and research centres, fight the so-called brain drain and strengthen measures supporting doctoral programmes not aimed at academic careers. The number of doctoral scholarships in the fields of cultural heritage and public administration will also be increased. The budget, including the REACT-EU funds, set aside in the NRRP to finance doctoral studies is 1.51 billion euro which may be supplemented by private co-funding.
With regard to research strengthening, the planned measures aim to enhance fundamental and industrial research activities, promoting open and multidisciplinary research, driven by curiosity and a scientific approach, as well as research aimed at addressing strategic challenges for the Country’s development. These measures include support for the National Research Programme 2021–2027 and the Research Projects of Relevant National Interest, the young researchers programme modelled on the European Research Council (ERC) grants; partnerships extended to universities, research centres and companies; the creation of “national R&D champions”, i.e. national research centres in the field of Key Enabling Technologies selected through competitive processes; support for innovation ecosystems, i.e. places that promote interaction between universities, research centres and society, defined on the basis of territorial vocations.
The NRRP’s research support measures will also support innovation and technology transfer processes, encouraging the systemic use of research results and strengthening the enabling conditions for the development of research and innovation activities. This last intervention will be supported by the “Fund for the Creation of an Integrated System of Research and Innovation Infrastructures” that aims to promote the osmosis between the scientific knowledge generated in research infrastructures and the economic sector.
Preparatory to the NRRP’s support measures for the “From research to business” component, the simplification and mobility reform – implemented by the Ministry of University and Research and the Ministry of Economic Development – is aimed at simplifying bureaucracy in the management of funds supporting public-private research activities and the mobility of highly skilled people (e.g. researchers and managers) between universities, research infrastructure and companies.