Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

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Central Research Lab, Genoa, Italy.

The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) (the name's words can be translated in english as "Italian Institute of Technology") is a foundation established jointly by the "Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca" (Ministry of the Italian government for the national education system, the Italian universities and research) and the "Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze" ((Ministry of the Italian government for the Economy and the Finances) to promote excellence in basic and applied research and to contribute to the economic development of Italy. Primary goals of the IIT are the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge as well as strengthening Italy's technological competitiveness. To achieve these two goals, the IIT will cooperate with both academic institutions and private organizations, fostering through these partnerships scientific development, technological advances and training in high technology.

The Scientific Plan 2009-2011 aims at developing the results of the start-up and sets a general framework which combines the integration and the reinforcement of the departments, the national network and the research platforms.

The Scientific Plan 2009-2011 is the evolution of the 2005-2008 plan], which was dealing with a large scale program on Humanoid Robotics. According to the 2005-2008 strategic plan, the Humanoid Robotics program had a strong interdisciplinary character, merging human and humanoid technologies through the development of 3 technology platforms: Robotics, Neuroscience and Drug Discovery and Development (D3), supported by a few facilities for nano-biotechnologies (such as material science, nanofabrication, chemistry and biochemistry, electron microscopy laboratories etc.). Each platform was meant to develop specific topics/tasks in different IIT research units, such as the Departments built in Genoa, or, in some cases, the external research units forming the multidisciplinary research network of IIT country-wide.

Platform-grid

To date the research infrastructure of IIT in Genoa has been completed. It consists of more than 500 staff from 30 different countries, operating in a 25000 sqm facility equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories distributed over three Robotics departments (Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Advanced Robotics; TeleRobotics and Applications) and two life-science oriented departments (Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, and Drug Discovery and Development, D3), and a few shared facilities including nanofabrication clean room, material science lab, chemistry lab, biochemistry lab, animal facility, electron microscopy, mechanical and electronic workshops. The growth of the Humanoid Robotic program at IIT is witnessed by the exceptional development of the iCub robot (see the movie below), which merges in a unique way the engineering, the neuroscience, and the material science know-how existing at the Institute.

The new strategic plan 2009-2011 aims at consolidating the capabilities accomplished by IIT in the start-up phase, by developing a few new platforms instrumental to the evolution of the Humanoid Robotic program, meanwhile providing new opportunities to foster technological solutions useful in many different fields of the everyday life. The new platforms represent the natural evolution of the existing ones, and they originate from the idea of making iCub closer and closer to a human, namely: to power the robot with portable, high efficiency energy sources, to develop smart materials with biomimetic characteristics, to investigate the interaction between artificial nanosystems and biological entities (such as cells) in view of future interconnections but also to assess safety issues. These activities, will be supported by an integrated multiscale computation activity. Though each one the above topics have their own rationale and field of application, their combination and synergic development within the humanoid robotic program is the great challenge of the 2009-2011 strategic plan of IIT. With reference to the scheme above, the 2009-2011 strategic plan prioritised technological platforms can be identified as:

  1. Energy: portable energy sources, plastic solar cells, energy harvesting, energy storage, energy scavenging, fuel cell technologies (descending from the Robotics platform. Relevant to self-powered technologies);
  2. EHS (Environment, Health, Security): interaction of nanosystems with biological entities, in pharmacology, therapies, and any other human environment (descending from the Neuroscience platform, the Drug Discovery and Development platform and from the nanobiotech facilities. Relevant for future safety standards at nanoscale currently targeted by all advanced countries, and of great relevance for quality assessment in many fields such as new materials, environment, pharmacology, food and agriculture, new security standards for living creatures and human environment in the presence of nanosystems);
  3. Smart Materials: lightweight nanocomposites, intelligent biocompatible surfaces, interface living systems/inorganic systems, textile/fiber engineering (descending from the Robotics platform and the nanobiotech facilities. Relevant for future non-metallic robots, for environmentally friendly materials, biocompatible materials, new generation sensors, etc.)
  4. 4D (Diagnostic, Drug-Delivery Development): this is an extension and a completion of the existing drug discovery development platform (pursued by the D3 department) . In addition to the D3 activities, advanced diagnostic tools such as chip for genomic and proteomic analysis, multifunctional magnetic/fluorescent nanoprobes, nanocarrier for in vivo drug delivery, nanospectroscopies will be developed.
  5. Integrated Multiscale Computational Technology: developing advanced modeling of complex systems of interest to the above platforms.

The implementation of the scientific program outlined so far will require the following actions:

  1. Empowerment of the shared laboratories, consolidating the interdisciplinary facilities in the following structures:
  2. Creation of eight IIT centers established nationwide:
  3. Launch of exploratory research programs (Seed projects) in collaboration with other research Institutions.

Details on the scientific activity to be performed within each platform are given in the following Scientific Plan

Recently a ninth centre was created, The Brain Center for Motor and Social Cognition: SMC@UniPr – Parma, Università di Parma