Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

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Italian Institute of Technology
Central research lab in Genoa
Abbreviation IIT
Motto Technology with human touch
Formation October 2005; 9 years ago (2005-10)
Type governmental organisation
Purpose application-oriented scientific research
Headquarters Genoa, Italy, EU
Location
Fields robotics, nanotechnology, and others
Official language
English, Italian
Scientific director
Roberto Cingolani
Main organ
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
Budget
~ 90 million per year
Staff
~ 1,500
Website www.iit.it

The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) (in English: Italian Institute of Technology) is a scientific research centre based in Genoa (Italy, EU). Its main goal is the advancement of science, in Italy and worldwide, through projects and discoveries oriented to applications and technology.[1]

IIT was founded by Italian government in 2003, and it started to work on October 2005. It receives around 90 million per year from the Italian Government. The founders decided to create it in Genoa because of the presence of the branches of important hi-tech companies such as Siemens, Ericsson, and Ansaldo STS.

Its structure and management is inspired by Max Planck Institut in Germany: for scientists there are no tenure track positions, and all the researchers are evaluated every five years. The contract renewal is granted only if the researcher reaches his or her scientific goals.

Contrary to other scientific institutes such as universities or Italian National Research Council, its scientific research fields are limited to few sectors. These scientific areas include:

iCub making facial expressions

IIT mainly collaborates to the local University of Genoa, and also has other affiliated research centres (ten in Italy and two in Massachusetts, USA).[2]

The most famous application developed and delivered by IIT is the humanoid robot iCub. IIT dedicates a complete facility[3] to the study and the develop of this robot. On June 2015, another robot of IIT, named Walkman, participated to the pre-eminent DARPA Robotics Challenge, in Los Angeles (USA).

In 2014, IIT released BlindPad, an electronic device for blind people, developed by IIT researchers in collaboration with Instituto David Chiossone in Genoa.[4]

Another robotics application developed by IIT is the artificial hand, a prosthesis able to replace a human arm that is missing.[5]

Scientific plans[edit]

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.

IIT central headquarters in Genoa

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]