In 1927, the "Laboratorio di Ottica e Meccanica di Precisione" / "Laboratory of Optics and Precision Mechanics", established in 1918, becomes the "Regio Istituto Nazionale Di Ottica" (RINDO) / "Royal Institute of Optics" under the direction of Vasco Ronchi.
The institute has the purpose of designing and testing optical devices and of forming specialized technical personnel, especially for the armed forces.
In 1946 the name changes into "Istituto Nazionale Di Ottica" (INDO) / "National Institute of Optics", always directed by Prof. Vasco Ronchi.
In 1975-1999 period with the introduction of lasers and optoelectronic devices, optics recovers the leading role of the first century decades.
The Institute is restructured, since 1975, to face the new scientific challenges. In the beginning it is assigned to a commissary, modifying the name into "Istituto Nazionale di Ottica" (INO) / "National Institute of Optics"; for this long period it is directed by Prof. F.Tito Arecchi, initially as Commissary and then as President.
In these decades INO reaches excellence peaks in many areas including:
a) Quantum Optics
dynamics of laser sources; origin of the deterministic chaos, its control and synchronization; optical bi-stabilities and instabilities, origin and competition of patterns in extended optical systems; development of new coherent sources based on non-linear optical effects.
b) Optical Metrology
high resolution interferometric systems; innovative holographic techniques; non invasive methods for analysing works of art (paintings, sculptures); development of high resolution microscopy.
development of optical techniques for quality and process control in industrial field and for biomedical analysis; optical systems applied to concentrate solar energy; optical techniques for the identification of structural defects.
In 2000 the pertaining ministry (MURST) changes the denomination of the Institute from INO to "Istituto Nazionale di Ottica Applicata" (INOA) / "National Institute of Applied Optics" to emphasise the applicative range of the researches in the Optics sector.
With the law 127/2003 the "Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche" (CNR) / "National Research Concil" is reformed; this reform, denominated Moratti reform, foresaw a progressive merging of INOA inside the CNR that has been completed in date 1/6/2005, with the transformation of INOA from independent Research Institution to "Centro di Responsabilità di I livello" / "I level Responsibility Centre" of CNR. del CNR.
Despite the serious problems generated by the CNR merging, during these years the research activities have undergone a further extension and qualification in the international field. This improvement has been possible due to the collaborations created by INOA researches and to the capabilities of auto-financing the research activities, realised by participating to international and national contests.
This has partially balanced the considerable reduction of the Fondo di Finanziamento Ordinario / "Ordinary Financing Found" allowing the effective progress of the Institute activities.