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Fostering Great Minds

The ICTP Campus.

Situated between the Alps and the Adriatic, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, has served to bridge cultures for over 45 years. The Centre´s founder, the renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salam, considered scientific thought to be "the common heritage of mankind." He felt that scientific talent and know-how should flourish in the developing world, as it did in the developed economies.

Through his initiative, an international effort was launched to ensure that scientists from the developing world could undertake advanced research in their home countries. In the early 1960s in Vienna, Dr. Salam and other eminent scientists participated in the IAEA Board of Governors deliberations. By 1963, the IAEA´s General Conference endorsed an agreement with the Italian Government to establish the ICTP in Trieste.

In just over 45 years, over 116 000 scientists from more than 180 countries have visited the Centre, over half of whom are from developing and transitional countries and at least twenty per cent of these scientists are women. Today, the ICTP annually trains more than twenty times as many scientists as it did in 1964.

Together the IAEA and ICTP are enhancing developing world scientists´ expertise in atomic and molecular physics, nuclear energy systems, plasma physics and nuclear fusion, medical physics, synchrotron radiation and climate change and earth science physics.

Development Drivers

On 8 November 2010, IAEA Deputy Director General Werner Burkart addressed a commemorative symposium in Trieste, ICTP After 45, summarizing the ICTP´s crucial role in supporting development, "Advances in science and technology drive most of the developments in the society at large, and in turn, enrich the quality of life. The backbone of such developments is the availability of an adequate and appropriate pool of competent human resources; it is in this regard that the ICTP role has been an outstanding successful model for the developing countries."

Scientific talent development is the ICTP´s specialty. Burkart characterized the ICTP as an "ambience par excellence for the researchers coming from both developed and developing nations around the world." Through advanced schools, workshops, training courses, diploma programs and fellowships, the ICTP collaborates directly with the IAEA in nurturing tomorrow´s leaders in science and technology. For IAEA Member States, the course work in nuclear science, nuclear energy, nuclear knowledge management, nuclear safety and nuclear applications are of particular long-term interest.

Burkart also announced the inauguration of a new IAEA-ICTP event, a three-week School of Nuclear Energy Management, designed to support Member States considering the introduction of nuclear power into their energy mix. The School develops the robust and rigorous indigenous expertise needed to manage that process responsibly, safely and sustainably.

Real World Research

The ICTP is not an ivory tower, rather it is a think tank that brings together cutting edge science and promising scientific talent to tackle some of the most challenging problems the developing and developed world now confront. Global demand for increasingly scarce resources such as fresh water, arable land and energy is rising dramatically. Over one billion people have no access to safe water and over one-and-a-half billion people subsist without electricity. Together with experts from the IAEA, the ICTP provides courses that describe how climate, land, energy and water strategies can be developed in an integrated fashion to improve energy planning and increase access to these resources sustainably and efficiently.

For the IAEA´s Technical Cooperation Programme, "the ICTP is really a key partner," says Ana María Cetto, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Technical Cooperation programme. "We are very proud that since 2002, the IAEA-ICTP Sandwich Training Educational Programme (STEP) has been supporting the education and training of young scientists and researchers so that they can better contribute to the scientific, technological and economic development of their home countries," Cetto states. "The training and networking opportunities that ICTP provides to STEP fellows plays an essential role, not only in building scientific capacity in individuals, but also in bridging the gap between science per se, and the application of science for national socioeconomic development. Perhaps most significant however, is the fact that ICTP helps to raise the level of research knowledge and activities in developing countries to the same level as that of developed countries, so that fellows are able to contribute later on as peers with other researchers in any countries of the world."

The ICTP and the IAEA´s Technical Cooperation Fund sustain STEP to provide scientists from developing countries fellowships that allow them to prepare a doctoral thesis in one of the fields covered by the IAEA´s Technical Cooperation programme. Agency fellows train at laboratories in Trieste, Vienna, or Monaco, as well as in other laboratories throughout Italy. While receiving world-class instruction in Italy in a series of visits that take place over a number of years, the Fellows also continue to work at their home institute. The scientists that participate in the STEP programme can then apply nuclear science and technology in energy planning, health care, agriculture, industry and environment protection. The programme ultimately helps to educate and train subsequent generations of researchers at home.

Over the past four decades, the ICTP has developed a vibrant research network that directly benefits visiting scientists from developing countries. The Training and Research in Italian Laboratories programme offers scientists an opportunity to work at Italian physics research laboratories, as well as industrial projects.

ICTP - IAEA Cooperation

The ICTP and the IAEA cooperate across a range of activities. Jointly the ICTP and the IAEA conduct workshops and scientific events on nuclear knowledge management, physics and technology of innovative reactor systems, earthquake engineering for nuclear facilities, nuclear medicine, medical physics, extreme environmental events and risks to nuclear infrastructure, and materials science.

The Synchrotron Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East programme supports scientists from the Middle East by providing training at established synchrotron facilities in Europe.

The ICTP-IAEA International School on Nuclear Security trains professionals from developing countries, providing them with the fundamental nuclear security knowledge necessary to understand international requirements and measures to be taken in order to meet any obligations under the international nuclear security legal framework.

The Network of Accelerators for Sustainable Development in Africa receives joint support from the IAEA and ICTP for research in the application of small ion accelerators used to characterize materials, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.


Based in Trieste, Italy, ICTP fosters advanced studies and research in physics and mathematics, especially in developing countries. Each year about 6 000 scientists from around the world visit the ICTP for workshops, training and research.

The IAEA held the responsibility for the administration of the ICTP until the end of 1995. In 1996, the primary administrative responsibility for ICTP was transferred to UNESCO, which had joined in 1970 as a full partner in the management of ICTP. This had led to the tripartite agreement between the Italian Government, the IAEA and UNESCO that still governs the ICTP functions today.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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