University of Bologna (UNIBO)

Interdepartmental Center for AgriFood Industrial Research, Bologna, Italy

Since its origins in 1088, the University of Bologna has been student-centered hosting prominent figures from science and the arts. Based in five campuses (Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, Rimini), with a branch in Buenos Aires, it offers a teaching catalogue diversified and tailored to the needs of present-day society: over 200 degree programmes among its 32 Departments and 11 Schools are offered to over 81,000 students, 5,000 graduates are enrolled in PhDs.

As a comprehensive research university, the University of Bologna invests in the multidisciplinary cross-cultural approach and in the inseparable connection between research and teaching. One of the most active universities leading and participating in European research and academic cooperation projects, UNIBO has formed knowledge alliances with industries and public/private organizations and is a hub of international networks. Beyond its close European links, it enjoys multiple connections with America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Research and Innovation is a priority of the University’s mission.

With regard to Innovation, UNIBO filed 86 new patent applications in 2017, of which 25 are new registrations, thereby giving rise to an active patent portfolio of over 370 patents related to more than 140 inventions. It also has an active portfolio of more than 20 patented plant varieties, 80% of which are increased in value through active licenses with geographic coverage in countries in different parts of the world. UNIBO set up or accredited 27 spin-off companies up to 2017 and can also count Almacube, as business incubator that managed 15 incubated companies in 2017.

With regard to the capability of attracting funding for research and innovation, UNIBO is very active both at National and European level in all research areas. Activities related to competitive funding programmes are supported by the Research Division, with over 10 years of experience and about 50 people assisting the research groups in the whole project lifecycle. A Research Development Office deals with the pre-award phase and the UNIBO strategic positioning at local, national and international level, through integrated networking and lobby activities in each specific research area. The Programmes & Projects Office supports the UNIBO researchers from the projects’ implementation phase with technical, legal, financial and administrative expertise. These Offices strictly cooperate among each other and work in direct connection with the Knowledge Transfer Office, which is responsible for the Innovation Management, the IP protection and exploitation, and the take up and commercialization of the project results.

Thanks to its scientific excellence and a central Project Management support working closely, UNIBO has gained a considerable experience in International and European research projects and successfully participated in FP7 with 274 projects funded in 2007-2013 (58 as coordinator) and 87,8M€ of funding.

In Horizon 2020, UNIBO is so far involved in 238 funded projects (59 as coordinator) with more than 97,6M€ of funding. UNIBO is also partner of the EIT Knowledge & Innovation Communities and many of the most important EU initiatives related to the Horizon 2020 framework program (i.e. ETPs, EIPs, JPIs, etc.).

Two research groups from UNIBO will participate in WeLASER, from the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences (DiSTAL), and from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (DISI).

The DiSTAL recognized in 2019 as an Italian Departments of Excellence, collects scientists from almost all branch of agriculture. It will be contribute to the project by researchers working for more than 30 years on soil science, agro-meteorology and eco-physiology, recently focusing on sensors and recording platforms designed to collect information on soil-plant-atmosphere system (smart-farming) to be integrated in Decision Support Systems, Precision Farming and Big-Data-based Knowledge Development to increase farming system sustainability. To the scope DiSTAL already interact with DISI, that participates with the Business Intelligence Group that has a 20 year experience on data management, data analysis and machine learning. In the last 10 years DISI researches focused on Big data and IoT. Research groups are following both theoretical and application topics, participating to both European and Italian projects and collaborate in building a big data platform for precision agriculture that is capable of collecting and analyzing geo-referenced data from on the field sensors and satellite images.

Giuliano Vitali