The financial support provided by the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze (approximately 1.5 million euro) enabled the creation in Florence of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV), one of the most important research centres in the world for study of the communication and behaviour of plants.
The LINV is located in the Scientific Campus of the University of Florence in Sesto Fiorentino. From its foundation in 2005 up to the present the internationalisation of the laboratory has greatly increased, and it now comprises members of the IZMB (Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology) of the University of Bonn, from the University of Paris VII, the Botany Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Peking and the University of Kitakyushu.
In May 2012 the first foreign branch of the LINV (LINV@Kytakiushu) was set up at the Research Park of the University of Kitakyushu in Japan, financed through funds from the city of Kitakyushu and the Japanese government for a total of around 2 million euro. Italian and Japanese researchers work side by side in the LINV@Kytakiushu branch, all funded by the Japanese government as proof of the interest Japan takes in the results of the laboratory’s studies.
From the very start of its activity, in addition to brilliant Italian researchers the LINV has also attracted many talented young scientists from Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Canada, Poland, Japan, Australia, the USA, Turkey and other countries.
Numerous lines of research have been launched at the LINV with important results that are revolutionising received knowledge regarding plants. Among these we can mention certain studies of global ground-breaking significance regarding the dynamics of the electrical networks of the root apex (in collaboration with the department of Physics of the University of Florence), their capacity to perceive and emit sounds (in collaboration with the University of Bristol, UK) and on the swarming behaviour of plant roots (in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Technology – Istituto Italiano di tecnologia).
Over recent years, in addition to various studies commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA), LINV has taken part in 9 campaigns of parabolic flights organised by the ESA and by the German Space Agency (DLR) from the Bordeaux base, and one “sounding rocket” from the Kiruna base in Sweden. In 2011 it also placed an experiment on board the International Space Station. Also in 2011 the LINV postgraduate students gained an outstanding international recognition when in the same year they won all three European competitions organised by the ESA for doctoral students: Spin your thesis (using the ESA’s mega-centrifuge at Nordwejik), Drop your thesis (using the drop tower di Brema) and Fly your thesis (using the Bordeaux parabolic flights). This is a recognition which we are exceedingly proud of, since it underscores the calibre of our doctoral students; it was the first time since the foundation of the European Space Agency that the same team had won all three competitions. In effect, over recent years the LINV has been one of the most active space biology laboratories in Europe and it is engaged in numerous international space biology projects.