Almost all the major national public research institutions are present in the region, including the National Research Council (CNR), the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development (ENEA), the Council for Research and experimentation in Agriculture (CRA), the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and the Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA). There are also some regional public research centres such as the Zoo-prophylactic Institute of Sicily (IZSS) and the Science and Technology Park.
Main indicators associated with R&D activities have not gone through significant changes in the recent years. GERD was just 1.08% of GDP in 2014 (vs. 1.38% in Italy and 2.04% in the EU) (Eurostat, 2017). BERD accounted to just 0.20% of GDP (0.55% in Italy). In the period 2011-14, GERD grew by 29.13%. In 2014, GERD per capita was €184.1 vs. €366.7 in Italy and €564.4 in the EU.
In 2014, domestic expenditure on R&D was ca. €938m in Sicily (the national total expenditure was ca. €22,291m), mainly due to regional universities (58%), businesses (18%), public authorities and non-profit institutions (24%).
According to data elaborated by Eurostat, in 2016, the number of employees in high-tech sectors amounted to 23,800, representing 1.8% of the employed population, far below the Italian and the European average (3.4% and 4% respectively).
The number of patent applications per million inhabitants has decreased by 57% during the period 2008-12 (the figure was 4.4 in 2012 and 10.2 in 2009), by a much higher degree than the Italian average (-25.59%).
In 2016, the share of population that completed tertiary education (age in between 30-34) was 18% (the lowest level in Italy), far below the Italian and the European average (26.2% and 39.1% respectively).
Regarding ICT infrastructure, in 2016, 69% of households had access to the Internet, one of the lowest percentage in Italy (the national equivalent was 77%).
Finally, the regional innovation capacity after the 2007-2013 programming period, continues to remain modest with no signs of positive growth. Regional production is still not oriented towards high value-added sectors, as most local enterprises are small and have little incentives to cooperate.
As far as innovation is concerned, policy intervention has identified as main challenges for the regional innovation system: a) the upgrading of the regional production structure towards more competitive sectors; b) mitigation of brain drain; c) contrasting the relocation of innovative companies outside the region; d) encouraging smart specialisation in mature sectors; e) increasing competitiveness in technology markets; and f) improving access to finance for innovation projects.