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Quantifying the importance of a research center is a complex task. It is difficult to find an agreement on evaluation metrics – such as publications, funds or the number of researchers – for the results obtained. One of the most unbiased approaches is to investigate the network of relationships that links all the research centers.Italian research centers collaborate with each other and with centers from abroad in many ways: multiple affiliations, public-private partnerships, institutional contacts, consortia and other forms of aggregation for the sharing of projects, technological platforms, and so on.
A complete analysis of the relationships between the laboratories would be particularly complex. We opted for a simpler criterion to reveal this network: identifying who participates to a Europe-funded project – particularly within the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) – and who are his partners.
Counting the participations to European projects is one of the criteria that allow to reveal the most active research centers, the others being:

  • the number of connections;
  • the value of the projects;
  • the value of the partners.

We thus tried to visualize in a coherent way the structure of these data, ranging from a general (number of projects) to a particular (characteristics of a specific research center) perspective.
This analysis was based on a dataset provided by Cordis (Community Research and Development Information Service), which includes data on those projects with at least one Italian participant center and all the information about the other participants. Table 1 shows the research topics, the total number of projects relative to each topic and the number of projects where at least one Italian center is involved.

Tab. 1. FP7 projects (source: Cordis. Not definitive data)

ProgrammesThemes Found (million €) Number of projectsNumber of Projects with Italian participants
CapacitiesResearch for the benefit of SMEs (SME) € 1.336 795338
Research Infrastructures € 1.715 326216
Regpot - Research Potential € 340 18414
Activities of International Cooperation (INCO) € 180 16167
Science in society (SIS) € 330 15583
Regions - Regions of Knowldge € 126 7529
Support for the coherent development of research policies (COH) € 70 243
CooperationInformation and communication technologies (ICT) € 9.050 1.943990
Health € 6.100 926431
Nanoscinces, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies (NMP) € 3.475 694421
Transport € 4.160 561322
Food, Agricultural and Biotecnology (KBBE) € 1.935 423265
Environment € 1.890 418225
Energy € 2.350 309141
Security € 1.400 232131
Space € 1.430 210101
Socio-economic sciences and Humanities (SSH) € 623 205127
Coordination of Research ActivitiesJoint Tecnology Iniziatives (JTI) € 1.751 501139
IDEASThe European Research Council (IDEAS - ERC)
€ 7.510 3.544229
PeoplePeople - Marie Curie Actions € 4.750 9.100859
EuratomFission+Fusion € 2.751 13059
Total  € 53.272 20.916 5.190

We selected the five most relevant topics – based on the number of projects and the highest scientific and technological content – and we further analyzed them. These topics are:

  • ICT - Information and communication technologies
  • Health
  • NMP - Nanoscinces, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies 
  • Transport
  • KBBE - Food, Agricultural and Biotecnology

We thus analyzed the 2.249 projects included in these 5 topics and, for each topic, we identified the first three Italian centers based on the number of participations, which turned out to be 11 (table 2). We also visualized the projects flow from the total up to this eleven through a histogram (figure 1) and a Sankey diagram (figure 2). We excluded all the other research centers from such visualization.

Fig. 1. Relationship between total projects and the projects with at least one Italian participant center (click to enlarge)


Fig. 2. From topics to centers (click to enlarge)

Tab. 2. First three italian centers for each selected topic

ICTConsiglio nazionale delle ricerchePolitecnico di MilanoSTmicroelectronics
HealthISSUniversità di MilanoUniversità di Torino
NMPConsiglio nazionale delle ricercheCentro ricerche FIAT SCPAD'Apolonia SPA
TransportCentro ricerche FIAT SCPACentro italiano ricerche aerospaziali SCPAAVIO SPA
KBBEUniversità di BolognaConsiglio nazionale delle ricercheUniversità di Milano

For each of these 11 centers we obtained further indicators:

  • Found amount: the total sum of the funds allocated to the projects to which the center has participated.
  • International network: the relationship between the total number of partners and the number of international partners.
  • Esteem value: the relationship between the number of partners and the number of co-participation with a high-level university (in the table “Gold partecipations”). The list of high-level universities was obtained from the Thompson Reuter ranking (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2012-13/...). To make things easier, we only selected the first 4 (and excluded those that did not participate to FP7 projects): University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich.

Tab 3. Statistics of the first three centers for each topica

ThemeCenterProjectsPartnersGold partecipationsInternational PartnersProject funding
HealthISS3457114515€ 174.277.594
HealthUniversità di Milano2133228294€ 174.277.594
HealthUniversità di Torino202818251€ 117.214.889
ICTConsiglio nazionale delle ricerche101634130900€ 383.371.077
ICTPolitecnico di Milano5969818589€ 253.919.552
ICTSTmicroelectronics534975402€ 206.648.491
KBBEUniversità di Bologna447045626€ 164.472.632
KBBEConsiglio nazionale delle ricerche345484498€ 151.498.561
KBBEUniversità di Milano244146367€ 104.217.570
NMPConsiglio nazionale delle ricerche6986815744€ 295.949.214
NMPCentro ricerche FIAT SCPA415685513€ 219.848.855
NMPD'Apolonia SPA314922428€ 144.514.460
TransportCentro ricerche FIAT SCPA414832412€ 162.960.084
TransportCentro italiano ricerche aerospaziali SCPA316326573€ 241.970.797
TransportAVIO SPA1947216434€ 226.198.810

Tab 4. Statistics of the 11 centers for all the topics

CenterProjectsPartnersGold partecipationsInternational PertnersProject funding
Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche48363411005580€ 1.786.192.555
Università di Bologna1902402352081€ 710.465.114
Politecnico di Milano1662127421786€ 692.845.486
Centro ricerche FIAT SCPA1592131131884€ 752.745.765
Università di Milano92114040998€ 357.049.683
D'Apolonia SPA86120261024€ 323.461.145
STmicroelectronics7275613621€ 292.120.658
ISS671113241012€ 294.314.214
Università di Torino6680122694€ 238.254.957
Centro italiano ricerche aerospaziali SCPA346607595€ 246.039.570
AVIO SPA2558817540€ 266.720.264

Finally, in order to make these statistics easier to be read, we represented these indicators with a Kiviat diagram (figure 3), facilitating the comparison between the different centers characteristics and highlighting the differences compared to the three indicators.

Fig. 3. Comparison of the centers (click to enlarge)


Italian Research map (click to enlarge)

Italian research centers funded by the EU



This article and its data visualization are to be intended as a preliminary study of the Cordis dataset on FP7 projects. The update of the dataset by Cordis is still ongoing and may contain inaccuracies only partially revised by the authors. Indicators are provisional too and help to test the efficacy of the visualization. Any kind of suggestions as well as mistakes reporting are gladly accepted.


DataViz: Sergio Cima, Emanuele Conti, Carlo Toccaceli Blasi
Data assistant and translation: Michele Bellone  

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