Research themes and prioritisationTop
Reducing energy costs, reaching or exceeding European environmental targets, improving security of supply and promoting industrial development in the energy sector are the objectives set out recently by the Italian government in its National Energy Strategy document.
As part of the government’s new energy policy guidelines, Italian research priorities are:
- Innovative renewable technologies, particularly those in which the country is already strong, such as concentrated solar power and second-generation biofuels;
- Smart grids, partly to facilitate distributed generation, and energy storage, including in relation to sustainable transport;
- Materials and solutions for energy efficiency, with the associated technology transfer;
- CCS projects, mainly from the perspective of Italy’s participation in the European action programme around this technology, and possible technology transfer initiatives outside the EU.
Organisation of researchTop
The high-level political governance of R&D is linked to two main bodies: the Council of Ministers and the Inter-Ministry Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE). By approving the triennial National Research Programme (PNR) – the main Italian R&D policy document – CIPE allocates overall financial resources to public research performers.
The last National Research Plan, for the period 2011–2013, identifies several thematic priorities for the national research policy. These include energy, sustainable mobility, the environment, and ‘made in Italy’ – a programme promoting the industrial sectors that characterise national productivity.
The main ministries involved in funding energy R&D are the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR), the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE), and the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Land and Sea (MATTM).
Constitutional amendments in 2001 provided a new framework for sharing regulatory competences, including energy, between the state and the regions. More specifically, regions are in charge of promoting applied research, innovation and technology transfer programmes and projects.
The main public R&D institutions which carry out energy research in Italy are the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), the National Research Council (CNR) and Research on Energy Systems (RSE SpA). These institutions are directly involved in implementing the National Electric System Research programme.
Figure 1: Organisational structure of energy research in Italy.
Programmes and budgetsTop
The level of resources Italy devotes to research and innovation, both private and public, is significantly below the EU average. The main contribution comes from public institutions at both national and regional levels. Private-sector participation is low, though it has increased in the last few years, mainly in specific areas of excellence – for example, the Italian concentrated solar power industry is on course to become a world leader. Italy has also recently consolidated its leadership of the emerging smart grids sector by co-ordinating the creation of the International Smart Grids Action Network (ISGAN). The country also has important R&D programmes on clean coal, second-generation biofuels and energy storage.
In 2011, public funding for energy R&D and demonstration was around €400 million. The budget structure has changed in recent years, with a marked shift towards energy efficiency and renewables (17 % and 14 % respectively of the total budget), while nuclear R&D has lost ground (14 % in 2011 compared to 40 % in 2000).
 Source: IEA Energy Statistics – R&D Statistics
Table 1: The main energy research programmes in Italy
Programmes and initiatives
POI Energie Rinnovabili e Risparmio Energetico
This programme implements the National Strategic Framework 2007–2013 in the energy sector. It aims to increase the production of energy from renewable sources and to improve energy efficiency, promoting local development opportunities in the Convergence regions (Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily). The total national contribution to the Operational Programme is €800 million, which about 50 % is dedicated to renewables.
Ricerca di Sistema Elettrico
This three-year programme gets most of its funding from the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE), supplemented by a levy on electricity bills. Its main goal is technology innovation in the electricity system. There are three research areas:
- management and development of the national electricity system
- electricity production and environmental protection
- rationalising and reducing electricity use.
ENEA, CNR and RSE are the main research agencies involved.
The resources allocated by the three-year plans (2006–08, 2009–11 and 2012–14) amount to approximately €600 million.
Programma Operativo Nazionale Ricerca e Competitività (PON- R&C) 2007–2013
This programme is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Its management and evaluation are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) as the managing authority. The Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) is involved as an intermediate body. The priority research areas are: distributed generation, cogeneration, solar power, waste, biofuels, geothermal power, electrochemistry, rational use of energy and emissions reduction. The national budget in the energy sector for the period 2007–2013 is €200 m.
Industry 2015 is a programme of the Ministry for Economic Development (MISE) whose objective is to fill Italy’s R&D gap. The programme has identified five strategic areas: energy efficiency, sustainable mobility, new technologies for life, new technologies for the Made in Italy campaign, and innovative technologies for cultural heritage. Topics in the area of energy efficiency are: New Products and Technologies for Energy Generation; Requalification of Industrial Sectors; Improvement of Production Processes; and Other Technologies.
National govermment departmentsTop
Ministero dell’Istruzione dell’Università e della Ricerca (MIUR)
This ministry coordinates national and international scientific activities, allocates funds to universities and research agencies, and sets guidelines for the support of public and private R&D funding. MIUR also coordinates the preparation of the triennial National Research Programme (NRP).
Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (MISE)
This ministry is responsible for national energy policy. It supports industrial R&D through financial intervention. MISE has a new Department of Energy divided into three Directorates-General (DGs): DG for Energy and Mineral Resources, DG for Security of Supply and Energy Infrastructure, and DG for Nuclear and Renewable Energy.
Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare (MATTM)
This ministry is responsible for co-ordinating policy on climate change. Together with the Ministry of Economic Development it is responsible for promoting and developing renewable energy and energy efficiency.
National research programme management agenciesTop
Agenzia Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie, l’Energia e lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (ENEA)
ENEA is overseen by the Ministry of Economic Development, in agreement with the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research and the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Land and Sea. Its research activities focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy, climate and the environment, safety and human health, new technologies, and electrical systems.
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)
The National Research Council (CNR) is a public organisation whose duty is to carry out, promote, transfer and improve research in the main sectors of knowledge growth and its applications for the development of the country. It operates several Institutes which carry out energy research.
Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico (RSE SpA)
RSE is a joint stock company owned by GSE SpA, which carries out research in electrical energy with special focus on national strategic projects funded through the Fund for Research into Electrical Systems of the MISE. Its activities cover the entire supply system through an application-oriented, experimental and system-based approach.