Research Areas | Università degli studi di Bergamo

Research Areas

Globalization and Regionalization are antecedents within the ongoing process of the increasing interrelation of markets, politics, institutions and society. Globalization leads to multilevel systems of interaction, whose actors are International organizations, the European Union, National and Regional governments. The role of non state and private actors is also noteworthy. While multinational enterprises drive globalization, their strategy is toward regionalization and entrepreneurial firms, hiring most of their employees within their host country or host region, operating on a multinational level. Global competition, indeed, takes place mainly among top regional and sub-national systems, that are better able to intercept and foresee the needs and expectations and to aggregate the strengths of the respective territories.

The most advanced large scale economic and social systems are often based on a few smaller scale systems, which drive their competitiveness matching local and global interests. In this context, "the role of regional economies appears to be a key factor in responding to the world economic and financial crisis as well as in designing new rules for governance and cooperation among leading countries" (World Region Forum, 2011). There is indeed an ongoing and irreversible trend towards a concentration of political decisions at the top of the European Union, which reduces the leeway of national governments and politics. At the same time as nations lose more and more autonomy towards a European perspective, regions within countries obtain more and more importance and are more and more involved in the decision-making process. Regions are therefore more and more expected to play a major role as a link between local actors and the national and international communities: global competition is about regional competition.

The CCSE tries to cope with these developments and changes. To improve regional competitiveness and growth, decision-makers in politics, economics and administration should be aware of how and why regions differ in their institutional arrangements, performance and endowments. The guiding mission is to study the performance of markets and institutions in different countries and regions within Europe and their interrelation within the context of a global economy.

The CCSE applies a plurality of methodologies, with a clear focus on theory-based empirical research. It closely co-operates with diverse scientific disciplines to address new research questions. In this context the CCSE distinguishes itself in the analysis of internationally comparable questions in the European context. In this sense the CCSE is concerned in the creation of data bases as an essential basis for scientific research on comparative empirical studies. The CCSE favors cross-national comparison methodologies, which are particularly advantageous in uncovering the unique features and unconscious assumptions that possess our vision when we study only a single country (Clark and Burton, 1983). The comparative approach is the distinctive characteristic of the CCSE, with a prospective open to various competences and fields of study. The shared view is that sustainable development encompass both economic, socio-cultural and environmental dimensions.

Language policy in the University

Internationalization processes in the study programs involve the use of more than one language in teaching and learning, with English usually employed as the scientific lingua franca besides the native language(s) of teacher staff and students outside the United Kingdom. The use of English as the major communication medium in the internationalized study programs interferes in a crucial way with the young students' language development. In fact, the young students achieve the completion of their native language at university, where they are exposed to an input comprising specialized lexicon, complex syntax, and the discourse strategies of the scientific and academic tradition of their study curriculum. Adoption of English as the young students' second language with a lesser degree of proficiency than their native language, may be prejudicial to the smooth development of both language and professional skills. As a consequence language policy appears to be a relevant aspect of the general outline of university governance. Language policy in the university may involve different actions, such as the monitoring of the actual use of more than one language between and among staff and students in the different activities they are involved in, the promotion of both language and academic skills, the removal of actual and potential hindrances in the achievement of a successful professional preparation in internationalized courses, and the language(s) to be employed in interactions with foreign universities and in the own web presentation.

Energy sciences and sustainability

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Psychological perspectives in public health care

The main goal is to compare, share and jointly develop best practices and guidelines for diagnostic tools and cost-effective therapeutic interventions in public healthcare. The primary focus will be on mental health care research (i.e. cost-benefit analysis of psychological therapies in different public health systems across European countries). According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2011) mental ill health accounts for almost 20% of the burden of disease in the WHO European Region and mental health problems affect one in four people at some time in life. Around 20% of the world's children and adolescents are estimated to have mental disorders or problems, with similar types of disorders being reported across cultures. The numbers of affected are huge, just as human and social costs. Roughly 40 per cent of incapacity benefits and sick leaves are due to mental illness. Depression alone is ranked as the leading cause of disability worldwide, as the WHO estimates that at least 73 million people are suffering from depression and about eight million in Italy, but only 40% of these are treated.

Moreover, nine of the ten countries with the highest rates of suicide in the world are in the European Region. In the last few years another problem worsened the situation and calls for major innovations, as WHO (2009) warns us: "The economic crisis is expected to produce secondary mental health effects that may increase suicide and alcohol death rates. However, the mental health effects of the economic crisis can be offset by social welfare and other policy measures". The London School of Economics (Bell et al. 2006) study made it possible to assess that the most cost-effective intervention for the British National Healthcare System was to hire new clinical psychologists to cut down the costs and get better outcomes. Nevertheless, in most Countries, drugs are still prescribed as the (only) treatment of choice, despite the serious side-effects and questionable advantages.

Although much is now known about what works for whom in mental health promotion, prevention, care and treatment, the actual challenge is still how to implement this knowledge in real and different local setting. Accessible, up-to-date and responsive primary care services in fact can support people at risk and prevent and/or reduce mental health effects. In many Countries across Europe services and practice still do not always reflect the cost-effective evidence in mental health care and treatment. Possibly, one difficulty is due to the fact that Evidence-based Practices (EBP) is often very distant and lacks external validity and therefore should be integrated by Practice-based Evidence (PBE), developed and studied directly in real public health services. Countries like UK or Germany have applied these EBP findings in a rigid way: they produced strict national guidelines that define which treatments can be provided or not; whereas others, like Italy, have still more degrees of freedom but also lots to learn from evidence gathered both inside and abroad. Though, cross-cultures and multi-centers clinical trials are difficult to conduct, also due to lack of funding and/or grants. This is one of the main issue that we aim to overcome through the CCSE. Some research studies have investigated what determines differential resilience to economic shocks across EU countries (Stuckler et al., 2009), i.e. different dynamic processes by which individuals, communities, and societies adapt and react to significant adversities. Thus, investigation on resilience involves both the crisis or problems/constraints, like the financial ones, and the skills/resources activated or created to cope with it.

The main areas of interest in our research programmes will focus on the five key barriers that - according to the WHO (2011) - need to be overcome in order to increase the availability of mental health services with skilled human resources: the absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding; the current organization of mental health services; the lack of integration within primary care; inadequate human resources for mental health; and lack of public mental health leadership. Within this frame, we aim to run comparative studies for skill-share purposes and to exchange ideas, practices and guidelines across European countries in order to improve the quality of health services in time of limited resources and increasing demands.

The secondary topic of our research group takes into account diagnosis and treatment of other diseases and medical conditions (such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, disabilities, tabagism...) for which the psychological aspects can play a key role both in the aetiology and in the recovery and therefore in the implementation of cost-effective interventions in healthcare services. For instance, obesity is a growing global epidemic affecting almost all parts of the world and therefore a top priority in agendas of all healthcare systems. The proportion of obesity has increased by around 50% in USA from the early 90s to the late 90s. In Italy, around 35% of the population are either overweight or obese according to the WHO criteria. The problem not only occurs in adults, but also in children and teenagers. Obesity is associated with significantly higher cardiovascular risk factors, hence causing increase in morbidity and mortality. These diseases together lead to a shorter life expectancy, with a poorer quality of life, increased medical expenses and increased sick leaves. Because of their high prevalence and various impacts on general health, in fact they pose a major threat and burden on public health. Our research topic will involve the analysis of comparative cost-efficacy of different interventions within an integrated approach to obesity, taking into account differences in life-styles and healthcare organizations across different Countries.


  • Bell, S., Clark, D., Knapp, M., Layard, R., Lord, Meacher, M., C., Priebe, S., Thornicroft, G., Turnberg, L., A., Wright, B., (2006). "The Depression Report: A New Deal For Depression and Anxiety Disorders". London: London School of Economics.
  • Stuckler, D., Basu, S., Suhrcke, M., Coutts, A., McKee, M., (2009). "The public health impact of economic crises and alternative policy responses in Europe." Lancet 374(9686): 315-23.
  • World Health Organization, (2009). "Health amid a financial crisis: a complex diagnosis." Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 87(1): 1-80.
  • World Health Organization, (2011). "Depression amidst depression: Mental health effects of the ongoing recession".
Social welfare and health care law

Globalization has brought radical changes to every aspect of our social, economic, political and cultural life. This phenomenon has an important impact on society, which is characterized by the gradual weakening of social ties and destructuration of relationships.

Identities are in crisis; traditional references are disappearing. As a consequence ? illogically, if we consider the general homogenization of lifestyle and consumer practices ? there are strong individualistic tendencies, which sometimes degenerate into extremisms, brought about by the need to define our own ?ego?. The collective identities crisis causes a sensation of widespread instability. This deep insecurity does not involve only people who are on the fringe of society; no one can think that they are exempt from risk. Everything can change for everyone at any time.

In this framework two other factors of destabilization must be considered: the financial crisis and the huge migratory flows. The former has impacted on a context characterized by the decline and impoverishment of the middle class: unemployment is increasing and insecurity does not affect only the lower classes and disadvantaged people; everyone can unexpectedly lose their job and become poor.

In addition, the number of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, quite often irregular or undocumented migrants, is increasing: they escape from countries at war and countries where human rights are violated; they flee countries where they suffer poverty, to look for a job and better living conditions. European countries are becoming countries of immigration like the USA, Canada, Australia. They have to adapt to the changing characteristics of the population.

In this context, characterized by a disruptive perception of insecurity, the foreigner is often considered as a threat; migrations lead the locals to strengthen their identities, in a climate of conflict. This situation puts stress on the social welfare and health care systems of the various countries, which have to face new, dramatic conditions of marginalization, regarding citizens and foreigners, sometimes in competition with each other. Social security systems need public money, but, during periods of crisis, resources are drastically reduced: when the situation requires greater and more incisive intervention, paradoxically the public authorities have less funds available.

It must also be considered that the financial crisis and huge migrations affect a situation in which funding policies are under pressure. Health and welfare financing policies are also in difficulty because new medicines and other scientific and technological developments expand the range of health problems that can be treated. Moreover ageing populations and rising expectations create growing pressure on costs. It is clear that health care and social welfare systems are failing to keep pace.

Our research aims at understanding and evaluating the impact of globalization and of the other above mentioned challenges on different welfare models. From the methodological point of view, the research will be developed following a comparative approach. In the knowledge and dialectic comparison with foreign experiences, the law finds a key factor for understanding its own dynamics and for assessing the suitability and efficiency of its own solutions.

It must be stressed that global questions cannot be tackled only at a national level. Although within the European Union the organization and delivery of health care and social services is the responsibility of the Member States, the European Union is becoming more and more involved in the governance of health care and coordinates and encourages Member States to combat poverty and social exclusion. Part of the research will be devoted to studying the European policies and regulations in these fields and to finding levers for change to overcome the fragmentation between countries and disciplines. The European Union encourages the national governments to reform their health care and social welfare systems learning from each other and exchanging best practices.

At the same time the investigation will be focused on the role of regional systems and municipalities in pursuing social development. First of all, it should be recalled that the actors of the European Union integration process are not only Member States, but also sub-national levels of government. There is an evolution towards a decentralized system of policy making, in which various sub-national levels are building strong relationships and different forms of cooperation. Moreover, regional and local governments are entrusted with a large number of complex and essential tasks, covering important functions and services such as social services, health care and education, as well as housing, and so on. The importance of the study of the regional and local dimension is due to the fact that regional and local authorities are playing a key role in safeguarding the fundamental rights of individuals and are crucial to the fulfillment of the aims of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Financing and governance mechanisms in Universities

With the growing competition in a globalized world, Universities are seen as the key organizations and supporters in the regional and national innovation system. In fact, the prosperity of regional economies and the health of their Colleges and Universities are inescapably related. Universities provide high quality human capital and knowledge and are the main drivers in regional economic and social growth (Porter et al., 2006). Although the Bologna reform aims to make higher education programs more comparable on an international level, higher education institutes differ across regions and nations (Van Vught, 2008). Academic research of the CCSE is dedicated to analyze relevant differences in higher education systems to improve our understanding of this under-researched but very influent sector of society.

The research group aims to better understand the University world and its relationship with the society, providing cross-national comparisons between Higher Education system and Universities. The main focus are governance and financing models: starting from a comparison within the cisalpino regions, the research group aims to compare a centralized system, as the Italian one, with a federal system, such as the German. The ultimate goal is to understand the advantages of each model and which one better adapts in contributing to the improvement of society.

As far as University governance is concerned, several models have been thoroughly studied in the literature. The first author who identified a model was Clark (1983) who recognized three main agents (government, academic oligarchy and market) shaping the so called "Clark's triangle" to govern the system; a second model was presented by Van Vught (1989), who simplified the Clark's model by identifying two extreme cases: the State control model, typical of the continental European tradition, and the State supervising model, typical of the Anglo-Saxon tradition; a third model was elaborated by Braun and Merrien (1999), who recognized three variables (substantial control by the State, procedural control by the State and system of value): the University governance system results from different combination of these variables. The research group aims to analyze in different Countries how Universities are governed and how the endowment shapes the governance structure. We also investigate topics such as how the governance structure foster regional and national growth, or which governance structure better fulfills this goal and special governance issues. Another objective is to investigate whether the increasing role of private and student contribution is changing the governance model.

Traditionally, Higher Education systems have been funded principally by the governments, but the massification of HE was the long-term aspect that induced governments to revise funding policy adopted hitherto. Under the theoretical principles of the New Public Management, privatization, managerialism and performance assessment were considered the pillars of a reform that would modernize Universities (Sporn, 2006). The research group wants to focus on University funding models in different Countries to understand how the government policies are today changing and whether the shifting costs from public to private sources is happening everywhere. We also aim to study how public and private funding differ between Countries in relative terms and overall.

As far as the massification of higher education is concerned, since the 1960s there has been a sharp increase in enrolment and a transformation from an "élite University system" into a "mass University" or "generalized access system" (Trow, 1974). Research issues to be analyzed concern the recent increase of tuition fees and the social exclusion of students from disadvantaged economical background.

All the analysis will first make use of comparable samples in the cisalpino area, set up by collecting data on higher education system and institutes.


  • Braun, D., and Merrien, F.X., (1999). "Governance of Universities and modernisation of the state: Analytical aspects". In D. Braun, and F.X. Merrien (Eds.), Towards a new model of Governance for Universities? A comparative view (pp. 9?33). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Clark, B.R., (1983). "The Higher Education System: Academic Organization in Cross-National Perspective". Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Porter, M.E., Ketels, C., and Delgado, M., (2006). "The Microeconomic Foundations of Prosperity: Findings from the Business Competitiveness Index". In Lopez-Claros, A., Porter, M.E., Sala-i-Martin, X., and Schwab, K., (eds.), Global Competitiveness Report 2006?2007. Macmillan, Palgrave.
  • Sporn, B., (2006). "Convergence or divergence in international higher education policy: Lessons from Europe". Accessed at
  • Trow, M., (1974). "Problems in the transition from elite to mass higher education, Policies for Higher Education". General Report on the Conference on Future Structures of Post-Secondary Education, Paris: OECD, pp. 55-101.
  • Van Vught, F., (1989). "Governmental strategies and innovation in higher education". London: Kingsley.
  • Van Vught, F., (2008). "Mission Diversity and Reputation in Higher Education". Higher Education Policy, 2008, 21, 151?174.


Corporate governance and innovative financing

People and goods now move and interact in new ways and at a faster rate than ever before. Yet, laws to protect rights, legal regulations and the organizational shape of institutions remains stuck in the old mould. Today, however, regulations apply more and more frequently across national borders, rather than within them. Geographic confines correspond less and less to the effective borders, but often span several territories. This research field of the CCSE is dedicated to the risks, problems, chances and challenges grounded in the gap between globalization of institutions, firms and markets on the one side, and regionalization effects on the other. In particular, the research team is interested in how firms can access the necessary resources like financial capital, human capital and knowledge spillovers from their location, how these resources are transformed into marketable products to exploit strategic advantages in a globalized world and how these processes are accompanied and supported by politics and administration.

The future of economic growth and social prosperity of regions and Countries lies also in their ability to foster start-ups and the growth of entrepreneurial firms. While large and established firms and family enterprises could be seen as the stock of capital of firms within a region, young and entrepreneurial firms are the future inflows and guarantees of growth and welfare in the future.

The importance to commercialize academic knowledge for regional growth is undoubted and beyond controversy. Academic spillovers are not only necessary resources for entrepreneurial firms, but also for established domestic and foreign firms with locations and affiliations close to the source of academic knowledge. As a result, regions where established firms, entrepreneurs and research intensive universities work hand in hand, higher growth rates, lower unemployment rates and higher economic and social wealth is observed. Within this process, TTOs are seen as the institutionalized way to transport and canalize the ideas, inventions and innovations of academic researcher into the (regional) industry and society. This center focuses on analyzing the whole process of technology transfer from the creation of ideas within Universities, over industry-firm co-operations and the several ways to commercialize ideas and bring them to the market.

Family businesses are seen as the backbone of an economy. They employ most of the people in an economy and they are the driving forces in regional growth rates, social live and innovation behavior. However, family businesses are faced with specific problems like succession, credit constraints, often faced with disadvantages in their access to human capital, intangible resources and lack of attention in national policy programs. Research in family enterprises is concerned about those specific problems and challenges in a regional wide and international wide context. Comparative empirical studies highlights how regional differences and endowment shape family enterprises.