Sebastiano Cattaruzzo is doing research on industrial dynamics and economics of innovation as part of the PhD programme in Economics and Business at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV).
You are from Italy. How did you learn about the MFP-COFUND grants, and why did you choose URV?
I applied to many universities around Europe and the application to URV was a very lucky coincidence, as it came up among relatively late in the application process, but it turned out to be a great chance. I knew Agustí Segarra and Mercecedes Teruel from their work in the field of economics of innovation, and I liked the perspectives they undertake in their studies. Also, I have a strong preference for living and working in relatively small, but important cities, as I like the quiet and relatedness that they offer. All summed up, it sounded as the perfect occasion to apply.
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
Actually, being my occupation a part of social sciences, it is not as complicated as it would be for others. Mainly, I do research on a variety of topics related to industrial dynamics and economics of innovation, which is at the very heart of industrial growth. We do this by analysing data on firms and industries to see what could be the policies that can benefit them with a special attention to the methodology applied and its consequences in terms of results obtained.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
My research is mainly directed toward two purposes: understanding the functioning of economic mechanisms, especially at the industry and firm level, and providing results useful for policy advising. So on the one hand, we try to understand what help firms to grow, why some do and some don’t, and how to differentiate the latter from the former. On the other hand, once you grasped the picture, you can start asking what can we do to have a “healthier” industrial panorama.
Do you think that your research topic will be a key element in the near future?
Well, luckily or not, economics is at the centre of our daily lives, and the way we organize industries and economic activities is very relevant for the way we progress. Further, I study industries, innovations and their impact on employment and growth; thus, yes, I think that being technical change the main “engine of growth” of our world, I will find an occupation in the near future! The main engine of growth is technical change.
In the time you have been here, what have you liked the most about your experience at our University and in Reus?
Actually, I am really happy about how things turned out in Spain, and I have very few things to complain about. I love the city of Reus, because of the cultural and social heritage it conserves, despite its dimension. Regarding the university, I like the effort that everybody is making to achieve very relevant results in their respective fields without needing to “belong” to world-recognised, huge institutions. This idea of being relatively small, but very impactful is an approach that I truly appreciate.
I work with sociologists, engineers, scientists and psychologists at Sussex University. Each of us deals with similar topics under different perspectives and the interaction among us is very fruitful
Now you are in your international secondment at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of Sussex University, UK. What are you doing here?
Learning, I am really learning a lot. Although the supervision of professor Segarra and professor Teruel has proven fundamental for the progress of my thesis, I believe that confronting yourself with other realities is always an important opportunity to pursue. SPRU is one of the places where the first studies in economics of innovation have seen the light in the ‘80s, and being here, you really understand why! Now, I am working in parallel to the PhD thesis and to a project aimed at estimating the impact of the ongoing 4th industrial revolution. Confronting yourself with other realities is an important opportunity to pursue.
How do you think this international secondment will contribute to your career?
In many ways. As I was saying, I am learning a lot, both by simply doing things that I was not used to, but also by the continuous interactions with other researchers. SPRU is extremely multi-disciplinary, so you find yourself working with sociologists, engineers, scientists and psychologists. However, each of us deals with similar topics under different perspectives and the interaction among us is very fruitful. At the same time, I think that the things we are doing here will give me the chance to continue researching in collaboration with many other academics interested in this “frontier” topics.
What has been the best thing about your time staying at Sussex University?
The atmosphere that you breathe both in town and on campus. They are very open-minded, always smiling and interested in other people. You can really feel how all the different cultures present over here interact peacefully and fruitfully. There is a lot of attention toward sustainability, being this environmental, social or economic.
What have you planned once you finish your PhD?
I like progressing by small steps. For the moment, the target is finishing the PhD on time and contributing as much as possible to the research in my field. Afterward, I would love to stay in the academia, but I still need to figure out how and where. Anyway, I do think that research is a great thing to do and if you have the chance to practice it and you enjoy doing so, it would be a pity to let it go.