Polo Nazionale di Bioelettronica

(PNB) has been founded in Siena in 1991, upon initiative of its inspirer and President, Mr. Claudio Nicolini, who has been called from the USA for “outstanding merit” as eminent scientist to head the Chair of Biophysics at the University of Genoa, and by then Minister for Research, Mr. Antonio Ruberti, after the State Council for Economic Programming (CIPE) approved an ambitious research program “Technologies for Bioelectronics” with federal funding of 340 billion Italian Liras within 8 years.
At the time of foundation PNB was aiming its R&D activity solely at the public domain within a framework of vast international collaboration, establishing close links with institutions and R&D organizations from Russia, USA and Japan, which it continues to maintain.
PNB right from the beginning has pioneered and stimulated in Europe and in the above countries the birth of consistent research programs in the three sectors constituting the enormous field of bioelectronics, namely the neural and submicron cuivre microelectronics, protein engineering and their interface down to molecular level (i.e. molecular bioelectronics and nanotechnologies, for which President Bill Clinton recently announced a US national initiative with funding of about $500 million for the fiscal year 2001 alone).
Since it has been founded, PNB, as the main Italian partner, has followed the objectives contained in the Elba Project, an intergovernmental agreement on biomolecular engineering and bioelectronics between the State Committee for Science and Technology of the USSR and the Italian Ministry for Scientific and Technological Research (MURST) signed on December 7, 1990.
Significant results achieved by the Elba Project in the five year period 1991-96, resulting from the collaboration of PNB and institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have been explicitly acknowledged in the governmental bilateral Protocols Of Cultural And Scientific Collaboration between Italy and Russia.

In 1991, the European Commission, paying homage to the Italian leadership in the field and its technological potential, has commissioned to PNB a feasibility study for a new R&D program Interfacing Biology with Electronics, carried out by presiding a working group instituted in Brussels.
The strategic lines indicated in the document as a result of ample discussions and their integration in two European workshops co-chaired by Claudio Nicolini in Brussels and Frankfurt have been introduced into Framework IV Program (94-98) for Research and Technological Development of the European Union.
Moreover, PNB has started a third international cooperation on the topics of Protein-based Nanotechnology with the University of Tokyo and the Tsukuba Research Park, also this collaborative effort being acknowledged in the Protocol of Technological and Scientific Collaboration between Italy and Japan, signed in 1995.

The enormous interest of the industrial milieu towards bioelectronics was pushing PNB to take control of the industrial research not pertaining to the public domain and the respective technology transfer actions, by submitting in 1994 a proposal for the development of a Scientific and Technological Park (PST). Its selection by MURST, as PST Elba, among more than 42 proposals coming from various regions for a 3-year funding of several innovative projects, has brought forward a change in the statutes which permitted to put side by side with the original role of PNB the activity deriving from the contract with MURST and thus to enable direct entrance into the consortium of numerous companies interested in the applied research activities being carried out, with the result that by now the paid-in capital of 1,815,000 Italian Liras is almost entirely constituted by private companies.

At present the members of the consortium are prevalently multinational companies among which ABB, ST Microelectronics, Elsag, Hamamatsu and SMEs like AsseZ, Microtec, Eurochem and High Vacuum Process, the Cultural Institute of Trento Region (IRST) and the National Institute of Biostructure and Biosystems (INBB).
Among the present-day objectives of PNB is the consolidation of a scientific core group of the highest level in the few high tech areas which are functional for the industrial development both of members and of PNB itself, also through actions aimed at stock floatation of its spin-offs focussed on particular products.

Keys to success of PNB are its multidisciplinareity and interdisciplinariety, together with the choice of most brilliant researchers. A strong impetus towards new frontiers has been given by the institution of advanced research labs of PNB in Marciana (Isle of Elba), Genoa and recently in Valleranello (Rome) in the fields of Information Technologies, Nanotechnologies, Biotechnology and Bioelectronics. PNB has developed substantial technological know-how in the most strategic sectors related to organic and alternative technologies for electronics (sensors, systems and devices, new materials and instrumentation) and neural and miniaturized technologies for artificial vision and telecommunications (remote sensing, cursive handwriting and voice recognition, robotics, Internet). The core issues are nanotechnologies and advanced biotechnologies for food and healthcare applications. Following research activities conducted on its own and not only on behalf of its members, PNB is proceeding with filing of several patents in these frontline high-tech fields.

Confirming its role of a research center of excellence, from 1998 PNB has been placed on the National Registry of Research Laboratories (ex. Art. 4 Law46/82) of the Ministry of University and Scientific and Technological Research.

Polo Nazionale Bioelettronica conducts its activity within the framework of numerous collaborative research projects within National Research Programs, Autonomous Projects and of the Scientific Park Program of the MURST, as well as projects of the National Research Council (CNR), of ENEA, and with support from multinational and small-medium enterprises.

PNB has increased its turnover from only 23 million Liras in 1995 up to 4,4 billion Liras in 1999, followed by a constant increase in personnel active in R&D. The R&D personnel in the past years has always acted in tight contact with the personnel of member companies operating within projects of the Division Scientific-Technological Park of Elba.

More than 40 publications in international first-class peer-reviewed journals in the last 4 years ultimately confirm the high level of research activity being carried out within PNB.

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