Plagued by budget cuts and attacks on science, Italian scientists have had little to cheer about recently. But on Sunday, they received a welcome surprise when Valeria Fedeli, the minister for education, university, and research, announced that Italy will put an extra €400 million into its main basic science fund, the Research Projects of National Interest (PRIN). The money, to be spent over 3 years, will more than quadruple PRIN’s annual funding.
The biggest part of the increase, €250 million, will come out of unused reserves at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), a government-funded foundation under private law in Genoa that has recently come under criticism.
“This is the largest investment in competitive funds for basic research of the last 20 years,” says Elena Cattaneo, a stem cell biologist at the University of Milan and a senator for life in the Italian Parliament who had lobbied for the shift to basic science. PRIN funding has been going up and down since 2002, according to a group of academics calling itself Return On Academic ReSearch (ROARS), but overall has been modest. The latest funding round, in 2015, provided only €95 million for 3 years.