(valid only the actual speech delivered)
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to conclude this Conference, which testifies the excellent level of our scientific cooperation. The Conference was possible thanks to the joint effort of the Israeli Government and the Italian Embassy in Tel Aviv. It is an example of scientific and culture diplomacy, which has taken centre stage in Italy’s foreign policy. Undoubtedly, science is a bridge for peace. Therefore, it is the natural ally of diplomacy, as it can address global issues, such as food security, environment, and energy. Science and research are key factors of economic growth, meaning transfers of knowledge, availability of patents, creation of jobs and wealth.
Growth is a complex recipe, in which quality is especially valuable, and talent and innovation have no surrogate. Attracting the best and the brightest is an essential driver for development; involving scientists in economic processes is a key factor of competitiveness. As President Peres said, “the brain is more important now than ever before”.
A couple of weeks ago, together with Minister Profumo, I launched a digital platform, Innovitalia.net, which allows researchers and entrepreneurs to foster interactive exchanges of ideas, linking up new partners on innovation projects. More than 1,000 people have already joined in. This is but one example of Italy’s steadfast engagement in supporting scientific research through concrete and measurable steps, helping business to draw added value from it.
The brain gain can, indeed, be assured by scientific networking and connections. In a flat world - as it has been described - governments cannot have any interest in trying to prevent researchers from experiencing foreign realities and becoming more “global” in their activities. Research no longer happens only in labs; it is increasingly an open discussion which makes brain circulation a factor of success.
The Italian-Israeli cooperation is exactly this. Today, we have signed four Memoranda of understanding between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Centres for Research Excellence. These Joint Core Programmes financed by the funds of the bilateral Agreement on industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. They will allow Italian researchers to interact the lively and dynamic Israeli scientific community. I am sure that spending some time in the “start-up nation” will be very inspiring for their future careers.
There is another point that I would like to mention. Science flourishes in a free and open environment. Freedom is a key driver for scientific progress. Innovation is made possible not only by “beautiful minds”, but also by institutions that uphold the rule of law, promote competition and encourage new businesses and entrepreneurship. The very word “intelligence” derives from two Latin words, inter and legere, literally meaning between and to choose; without freedom “to choose between” different options, even the brightest intelligence may suffer. The Italian President Luigi Einaudi used to say that trial and error, freedom to try and to make mistakes, are the features of free regimes.
Freedom is essential but, of course, is not enough. Trust is also fundamental when creating joint-ventures or start-up companies: to see solutions where others see problems. It takes trust to connect and share, to transfer technology, to invest in people and mobilize talent, to support without dictating, to explore new fields of knowledge. Outsiders may look at the Italian-Israeli scientific cooperation as a model. They would be right. But when they would try to replicate it, they could realise that at the core there is a lesson stored in our experience, learned in many years of fruitful bilateral cooperation.
Thanks to this, we trust each other, and are encouraged to share talent, projects and ideas. Let’s hope that our example inspires others, especially in this Region. With their approach to openness and dialogue, researchers can overcome the existing barriers and lead the way on the path towards peace. A path, with its trials and errors, successes and setbacks, that should never be abandoned.
I was pleased that, last Tuesday, the EU Parliament approved the ACAA Agreement. This step will greatly facilitate European access to Israel’s cutting-edge pharmaceutical products, thereby making our commercial ties yet closer, and our citizens healthier.
It is no surprise then that common values and mutual trust make Italy the first European partner of Israel in scientific cooperation, second only to the United States. Our bilateral Agreement has greatly contributed by promoting over hundred projects. The Industrial and Academic Tracks have funded research in applied and basic science.
Our two countries have tripled their joint scientific publications over the last few years. Many seminars have addressed innovative subjects, such as artificial intelligence, molecular and cellular biology, environmental technologies and applications for preserving cultural treasures. These trends have encouraged joint applications for the European Scientific Framework Program, also in cooperation with local institutions. I am pleased to see among us, today, the President of the Trento Province, Lorenzo Dellai.
The special relationship between the Jewish people and the search for knowledge always strikes me. Jewish inclination to question and debate, their fundamental unhappiness with answers too simple or too shallow, their ancestral drive towards creativity are not only the ingredients of their excellence in science. They are, at the same time, the best insurance for their success and for strengthening their cultural identity throughout history. They attest Israel’s belonging to a community of nations committed to open debate, freedom, and, ultimately, democracy. A community which encourages the brightest minds to work together.