Before moving to Trieste, I did a little research and discovered, to my joy, that it is known for great Prosecco and local wines, it’s proximity to prosciutto heaven, San Daniele, Illy Coffee, the Bora wind and the Barcolana Regata. What I discovered when I arrived is that Trieste’s possibly greatest asset is, in fact, its scientific community.

Trieste is home to more than 30 research institutions, science and technology centers and university programs, among them:
International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP): promoting advanced studies and research in physical and mathematical sciences in support of excellence in developing countries.
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB): part of the UN system deploying the latest techniques in the fields of: biomedicine, crop improvement, environmental protection/remediation, biopharmaceuticals and biopesticide production with partners in New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa.
ELETTRA Synchrotron & FERMI Free Electron Laser (website): The main assets of the research center are the two advanced light sources, the electron storage ring Elettra and the free-electron laser (FEL) FERMI, operating 24/7 supplying light of the selected “color” and quality to more than 30 experimental stations, in order to help characterize structure and function of matter with a sensitivity down to molecular and atomic levels, used to pattern and in the nano-fabrication of new structures and devices, and to develop new processes.
The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS): crucial to the advancement of science in developing countries.
Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e Geofisica Sperimentale (National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics) (OGS): works for the safeguarding and enhancement of environmental and natural resources in order to evaluate and prevent geological, environmental and climatic risks, with the aim of spreading scientific culture and knowledge.
Scuola Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA): Int’l school for advanced studies in Physics, Math and Neuroscience.
Area Science Park: which is home to many other science research groups and provides incubator services to startups (website)

There are over 8,000 scientists at any one moment actively working in Trieste; this gives the city a ratio of over 35 scientists for every 1,000 residents. Across Europe that ratio is less than 5.7 to 1000, it’s 8.1 to 1000 in the U.S.  and it is 9.1 to 1000 in Japan.

So how is it that Trieste became the science hub with a particular focus on benefitting developing countries?   In the 1960s, Paolo Budinich, theoretical physicist and co-founded the ICTP along with his colleague famed Pakistani Abdus Salam. Their shared objective was to create the TRIESTE SYSTEM which Budinich described as, “One of the few non negative results of the last World War… which left Trieste with a difficult state border, called at that time the “Iron Curtain”, a few kilometers from the city ; a border which was generating in the region all sorts of devastating and cruel nationalistic movements. We from the University felt that it was our duty to try to remedy this with the only means at our disposal: that of scientific culture which, by its very nature, is international and able to create links of mutual understanding between people of all nations. Coherently we started to organize meetings and to create channels of cultural collaborations with our colleagues in European universities.”  

Now the Trieste System engages with scientists from all over the world. Recently I attended a dinner where Climatologist & Nobel Peace Prize winner (2007) Filippo Giorgi, pointed out that the many recent travel bans are creating insurmountable travel issues for many scientists, making Trieste, by default, even more likely to become the epicenter of scientific exchange as it presents a neutral ground where international researchers can convene.

The beauty of these centers here is that they are occasionally open to to the public for tours and they engage heavily with the local schools. It is a valuable resource for the community.

Trieste’s scientific prowess may not make the pages of travel guide books, but make no mistake, the scientific and medical breakthroughs that have come from this city have earned it a reputation that deserves to be promoted and publicized as it is a great source of pride for this seaside city.

Trieste is in the running to become Europe’s City of Science 2020 – the winner will be announced on June 29, 2017.


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