MISSION AND AIMS
The Institute mission consists in the study of service activities and their interdependence with the other sectors of the economy. It was formulated at the beginning of the 1980s when the development of services in industrialised economies became clearly outlined, and it is still relevant today largely due to the speed with which the dynamics of these processes have impacted on contemporary economies, as well as their strong links with innovation in the overall productive and social system.
The business approach to research adopted by the Institute differentiates it from other Italian and foreign research Centres operating in the same fields but using a more general economic approach.
When research projects conducted by the Institute are particularly complex, interdisciplinary contributions are outsourced, in order to focus with greater precision on other relevant aspects (industrial, technological, sociological, legal).
In the early years the Institute's activities dealt with a wide range of research themes and issues in order to satisfy both the broad institutional mission and other stimuli from National Research Council (CNR) initiatives (i.e. National and Strategic Projects).
Since 1996 research programmes have been more specifically oriented so as to raise the level of output and visibility of the Institute and balance the effectiveness of available resources.
The areas chosen are as follows: logistics services and freight transport industry; business services; management of tourist and cultural heritage industries.
These industries are strategically relevant for the competitiveness of the Italian economy and are potentially crucial for the development of Southern Italy.
The contents of each thematic area are described below.
This area aims to clarify and evaluate the mechanisms by which the business service system supports technological, managerial and international growth of industrial firms, and the birth of new enterprises. Research conducted at the Institute examines the international competitiveness of SMEs in Southern Italy, including the internationalisation process of local firms and those services supporting firms involved in internationalisation and innovation, with particular attention to business start-ups in high-tech industries.
Research in these fields began at the outset and were finally consolidated when the Institute took part in the National Research Project called "Services and Institutions for internationalisation and the development of exports in Italian firms ", the co-ordination centre of which was located at the IRAT offices.
The know-how acquired and the publication of results enabled the Institute to link up to private and public institutions which play an important role in the supply of services to the business system.
On the basis of this network, the Institute took part in the ADAPT Programme of the European Union between 1999 and 2001, acting as the mediator in a project designed to support managers and entrepreneurs in the internationalisation of SMEs.
Logistics services and freight transport
The aim of this research area is to interpret the development of the Italian transport industry as a result of its competitive dynamics and external factors. Research activities have taken into account the growing role of logistics services and intermodality, with special attention to management, strategies and policy for industry and firms. Other important issues relate to maritime transport, logistics, ports and other logistic hubs. Cross-sector issues such as information and communication technology, training and human resources, performance measurement and evaluation are also included. Transport economics and the management of transportation firms are long-standing research themes at IRAT and, as a result, considerable know-how has been acquired from active participation in two major National Research "Transport" Projects, in addition to a partial co-ordinating role in the second one.
IRAT's participation in the ADAPT- FIT project, funded by the European Union, is evidence of the remarkable competitive position it has achieved for itself in the maritime transport industry. The Institute is also integrated in a wide network of national and international research centres highly specialised in transportation research.
Management of tourist and cultural heritage industries
The aim of this research area consists in the analysis of the diverse types of firms found in the tourist filière and the innovative relationships among the actors in the tourist sector. Great attention is devoted to policies that public bodies and operators implement jointly, with the purpose of enhancing their respective resources as well as improving the performance of the tourist system in a given territory.
Research work has focused on the following issues:
1) firms involved in the growth of the industry as a whole;
2) specific contexts that comprise the gamut of local resources and the public and private network that manage them;
3) management of cultural heritage.
Tourism has long been one of the Institute's research topics, ever since it joined the Strategic Project "Climate, Environment and Territory in Southern Italy", in 1989. Later, research extended to brokerage, quality, heritage site management which was also studied in the recent National Strategic Project called "Tourism".
The Institute has created a wide network and, as such, it is worth mentioning its involvement in the annual "Report on Italian Tourism", edited by the State Tourism Bureau. It is also very active in joint ventures with businesses, trade associations and local institutions, such as the Naples City Council's Open Museums scheme, and with CNR - DAI (International Activities Department) to support development and co-operation in the Mediterranean Area.
Cultural heritage training programmes are under way, for instance two Projects have been funded by the National Programme "Scientific Research, Technological Development and Advanced Training 2000-2006".
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ROLE
The Institute is well established in the local context, both public and private, where it plays a main role in promoting an entrepreneurial culture and fostering local development. The Institute's involvement in scientific and cultural initiatives is continually in demand.
Integration in the local economy has been achieved in different ways: contractual research and consulting assignments from Public and Private Institutions, and with the presence of local business in project partnerships.
Another aspect consists in the increasing involvement of the Institute in education and training activities, thereby complementing existing research activities. Consequently, its impact on the social fabric has noticeably increased through the dissemination of knowledge. In the last few years, the planning and management of advanced educational initiatives have been added to traditional training programmes taught by IRAT researchers in university courses and advanced education courses organised by other recognised and accredited bodies, tutoring undergraduates in their degree thesis and internships. The purpose is to create higher professional profiles more conducive to the needs and development of the local economy. Recent involvement in "concerted" action (i.e.,"Territorial Agreements") and in the start-up of three Projects funded by the National Programme "Scientific Research, Technological Development and Advanced Training 2000-2006") responds to this logic.
In addition, IRAT co-operates with Italian Universities on a systematic and flexible basis. The Institute has a high international profile that has grown through constant academic debate and conferences on SMEs, internationalisation, transport and tourism issues.
Recent international involvement has not only seen increased publication of research results but also greater co-ordination activity, such as participation of researchers in editorial boards of journals and conferences, research projects partially carried out abroad, and in the organisation of international conferences.
The Institute is a member of the following associations:
International Purchasing & Supply Education & Research Association (ISPERA)
International Council for Small Business (ICSB)
International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME)
Association for Economic Transport (AET)
Associazione Italiana di Logistica e Supply Chain Management (AILOG)
Current staff members:
2 Research Directors
4 Senior Researchers
7 Technical Assistants
The number of staff members has increased from 6 at the beginning (1985) to 20 in 2001, with an average of 14 per year during the period 1990-2000.
Problems related to non-tenured staff (current staff are all tenured) have been solved, and an organisational structure to differentiate career levels has been created. Research staff are assigned to specific fields while technical staff operate across all areas.
There are on average between 2 and 4 scholarship holders who receive direct in-house training through the Institute's research programmes. Joint research work and contracts are carried out with other Institutes in the network and professionals.
The Institute has developed an ability to raise funds for research and training. Funds and other resources from CNR have gradually been cut in recent years, but the Institute has managed to obtain additional resources from the European Union and from consulting contracts with local public bodies, rising to 75% of the total annual budget.
In 2002 substantial funds were obtained from the National Programme "Scientific Research, Technological Development and Advanced Training 2000-2006" and from consulting activities delivered to private companies. The Institute has an excellent library and collection of highly specialised journals in service firms and their management. In addition to its important and specialised mission, IRAT uses original research methods and investigates issues that are strategic for the national and local economy. While other Institutes have been merged within the recent re-organisation of many CNR Institutes, IRAT has retained its autonomy. In this policy decision, the national and international role of IRAT, together with its wide network, its ability to satisfy the demand for research and raise funds from outside were also considered.
In order to expand the research activities of IRAT, much larger premises will be required. Like other CNR Institutes in Campania Region, IRAT suffers from a lack of space due to excessive delay in finding a solution to this problem. What is more, this could hinder the future development of research activity.