A small institute and a great opportunity

The Enrico Fermi Research Center (CREF) was founded in 1999, but only recently the complete restoration of the famous building in Via Panisperna was completed so that it can be used for scientific purposes. The goal was to return the famous building in Via Panisperna to a scientific use that would honor the memory of the fundamental discoveries of Fermi’s group that took place in this very building. The first step was to establish a museum with the original finds of Fermi’s experiments showcased via appropriate modern audio–video systems that would make the meaning of these historical events readily understandable to  new generations as well.

In addition to this dutiful homage to the heritage of seminal events, however, something more original and current was also thought of. Fermi was a scientist oriented to the future and to a particularly innovative vision of science. From this perspective it was decided that, in addition to the historical aspect reflecting the past, CREF also has its own research activity oriented to the present and the future. As in Germany, for example, the memory of Max Planck is mainly honored by a large network of prestigious scientific institutes, so it was proposed that CREF also become a nucleus of particularly original and innovative research, precisely in the spirit that characterized Enrico’s activities.

The CREF must not merely replicate or collaterally support activities already being carried out by other institutions. When seeking to do something original and on a high level, even if on smaller dimensions, it is natural to focus on the new scientific issues that are appearing on the horizon with increasing frequency. Often these clusters are interdisciplinary in nature and often related to the field of ​​Complex Systems.

In the Italian scientific world, disciplinary groupings tend towards a sectorization of research that does not favor interdisciplinarity. On the other hand, it is clear that a small and agile CREF can play the role of quickly orienting itself towards new, particularly current and innovative activities. CREF can therefore seize this strategic opportunity to be an institution that stimulates innovative scientific issues, that is, an incubator for start-ups of a scientific nature. The elements that enhance this opportunity are the undoubted prestige of the CREF and its headquarters and also its limited size, which becomes an advantage to enable quick and effective decisions in identifying new strategic issues. From this point of view, however, the idea is to be totally open to new developments and proposals that can also come from the outside. As for the specific issues, it is clear that reference will be made to the principles and methods of physics but interpreted in a modern key and with a focus on social relevance and possible collaboration with companies and other institutions.

For example, Ettore Majorana, of the Fermi group, wrote an article in 1930 entitled “The Value of Statistical Laws in Physics and Social Sciences”. This visionary article, published posthumously in 1942, posed a challenge that is particularly relevant today, especially when considered from the perspective of Big Data. Therefore, in addition to themes that are characteristic of more traditional physics but selected for their originality, we intend to develop themes such as data science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, among which Complexity and Economic Fitness represent a very current example.