Italian economist and researcher Elisa Maffioli
Italian economist and researcher Elisa Maffioli

Italy is recognized all over the world for its successes in scientific research, thanks to the ability of Italian researchers who, despite a chronic lack of funds and adequate facilities, succeed in achieving excellent results. Over the last year on INDiplomacy we reported the stories of many Italian researchers, such as Luca Tiberi, brilliant biotechnologist among the winners of the 2020 edition of the EMBO Young Investigators Award, or Professor Giorgio Parisi, who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Elisa Maffioli’s story is also a classic example of Italian excellence. Graduated in Economics and Social Sciences at Bocconi University in Milan, Maffioli obtained a doctorate from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with a research on health problems in developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In 2016, at the age of 30, Elisa Maffioli became assistant professor at the University of Michigan, where she still teaches Global health and Economics to the students of the master’s degree in Health Management and Policy.

2019 Nobel Prize winner Michael Kremer
2019 Nobel Prize winner Michael Kremer

This year, the Italian researcher added another success to her brilliant career: a few days ago, in fact, Elisa Maffioli was nominated director of the “Development Innovation Lab“, the new laboratory of Development Economics of the University of Chicago. The laboratory was founded by Michael Kremer, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for his experimental approach to combating global poverty.

“I am the director of the Development Innovation Lab in the field of research dedicated to “Water and Health”, a program that has implications in many countries. Specifically, I work on Kenya”, explains Elisa Maffioli to Italian newspaper La Provincia di Cremona.

“The opportunity at Chicago University was unique, I could not miss it” explains Elisa Maffioli. “Working together with a Nobel Prize increases professionalism and opens up new opportunities. Also, I learned how the private donation sector works. Private donations are huge in the United States” she says, concluding: “America is a country that offers incredible opportunities to those who work in the field of scientific research. The funds available are much more than in Europe.

2021 Nobel Prize winner Giorgio Parisi
2021 Nobel Prize winner Giorgio Parisi

When we talk about research in Europe, and even more so in Italy, the lack of funds is one of the most pressing issues. Professor Parisi himself, in his first public appearance after receiving the Nobel Prize, stressed the importance of the issue: “Research is extremely important to create the future. It is important that research in Italy receives proper funding. This is a good time to invest in research because this means investing in young people“.

Italy invests only 1.35% of its GDP in research, far below the European Union average of 2%. Public investment in R&D is even lower, around 0.5% of the GDP.  his lack of funds makes it difficult to carry out scientific research and pushes more and more young scientists abroad. Next Generation EU, the EU’s financial plan to revive the economy after the pandemic, offers an unprecedented opportunity for Italy to start addressing this problem.