The new role of the DAOs in health research

A study on the advantages of decentralised autonomous organisations over traditional funding systems


A new way of funding pharmacological/health research, with the aim of overcoming certain constraints and making better treatments available for all:

this is the focus of a study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology by Laura Grassi, professor of Investment Banking and of the Finance Lab at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano.

In the pharmaceutical field, long development cycles, high costs, significant failure rates and price uncertainty substantially hinder the development of new drugs. Traditional funding systems, which are based on the use of equity or grants, often prove to be slow and inadequate to meet the needs of innovative research.

Against this backdrop, the Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) emerge as a possible promising alternative. DAOs use blockchain technology to facilitate transparent and decentralised governance, allowing for quick and direct decisions without the need for intermediaries. Through smart contracts, DAOs can quickly perform complex actions, improving efficiency and reducing bureaucratic and administrative barriers.

The study particularly analysed VitaDAO, an example of how a DAO can be successfully deployed in the life sciences.

Focusing on funding longevity research, VitaDAO enables stakeholders to actively participate in governance and decision-making through the issuance of tokens, which confer voting rights and an ownership stake in the organisation. Not only does this model democratise the funding process, but it also aligns the participants’ interests towards the common goal of advancing research.

However, while offering numerous advantages such as transparency and effective decision-making, there are several points of concern: the regulation of DAOs and the tokens used can be complex and vary significantly among different legal contexts, creating uncertainties; in addition, managing decisions in a fully decentralised and public manner can be time-consuming and compromise efficiency in crisis situations.

Despite these obstacles, the case of VitaDAO illustrates the revolutionary potential of DAOs in overcoming the limitations of the current research funding system. Through strategic collaborations (such as the one with Pfizer), VitaDAO has not only validated its operating model but also proven its ability to attract significant investment, fostering a more open and productive R&D environment in the life sciences.


Find out more
The potential of DAOs for funding and collaborative development in the life sciences.

Venture Capitalists in Italy? They are very cautious and focus on entrepreneurs rather than technology and product in 8 out of 10 cases

Here are the Italian results of a survey on VC practices in several European countries conducted by 8 prestigious business schools


Italian venture capitalists are much more cautious than both their US and European counterparts, at least compared to countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Sweden. In Italy, venture capitalists grant funding almost exclusively on the basis of the entrepreneur’s history of success, giving little or no weight to the product, technology and market proposed to them. They operate in consortium usually to divide risk (in 46.4% of cases), seek unanimous approval of investment decisions in 50% of cases and prefer to be paid with less risky annual financial bonuses than with percentages (usually 20%) on capital gain. These are the main results regarding Italy of a survey conducted on European venture capital practices by a consortium of prestigious Old Continent business schools, including the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano, along with: Audencia Business School, Vlerick Business School/Ghent University, London Business School, Stockholm School of Economics, Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Univiersité du Luxembourg.

In 2020, authoritative research was published that took a snapshot of the practices of US venture capitalists,” explains Massimo Colombo, Professor of Entrepreneurial Finance at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano. “We wondered whether European investors behaved in the same way or whether there might be significant differences – given the historical and institutional differences, the smaller size of the market, for example in Italy, or differences in governance. We therefore presented a similar questionnaire to all known venture capitalists in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, and collected 885 responses (corresponding to 44% of VC investments in 2022), of which 44 were Italian, representing a similar percentage of the total investments”.

According to the survey, far fewer proposals are received in Italy than in other European countries: the average Italian investor received around 400 in the last 12 months, compared to 500 in Europe. However, Italian investors are less selective, accepting one proposal in 43 instead of one in 51. And the key factor for them in deciding whether or not to grant capital is essentially the entrepreneurial team: in fact, 8 out of 10 times, they invest in those who have already demonstrated an entrepreneurial or managerial record of success. “In Europe, too, the entrepreneur is considered more significant than the technology, product and market,” Colombo says, “but if in Europe the percentages are 53.1% versus 27.6%, in Italy it rises further to 81.6% versus 7.9%. The fit between investor and start-up and the added value the VC can bring are also of little importance (5.3%), whereas in Europe they are considered in up to 12% of cases“.

Again, the qualities which Italian investors value most highly in entrepreneurial teams are passion and commitment (28.9%) and sector experience (23.7%), to which they give much more weight than their European colleagues, who place more value on competence (28.2%) and entrepreneurial experience (19.3%).

As for the VC’s added value, Italian investors, like others in Europe, provide most of their support to start-ups in building links with suppliers, customers and partners, in acquisitions and in monitoring as board members. Strategic and operational support, on the other hand, is less common.

It is rare for a venture capitalist to invest alone, generally preferring to invest through a consortium, but while in Europe they do so to find complementary expertise (38.5%) and to a lesser extent to share the risk (28.8%), in Italy the latter becomes clearly preponderant (46.4%), while complementary expertise accounts for only a third of cases. The need to overcome capital constraints then drops from a 22.4% average in Europe to 14.3% (in Italy the rounds are usually smaller).

When choosing consortium partners, reputation and past successes are the decisive factor, both in Italy (45.1%) and, equally, across Europe (44.9%), while sectoral experience counts significantly more in Italy (35.5% versus 22.5%). By contrast, previous collaborations have less weight (3.2% vs. 11.5%). When it comes to choosing which start-ups to focus on, Italian investors look for unanimity in half of cases (compared to 32.8% across Europe), whereas other European investors vote by majority (37.6% compared to 35%) and the search for consensus is even weighted twice as heavily (25.9% against 12.5%).

CFA Research Challenge 2023: Politecnico di Milano wins the Italian phase

Five students from Politecnico di Milano beat Federico II University of Naples and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice with Technogym’s financial analysis and are now preparing for the EMEA regional competition. The world grand final will be held on 3 May 2023.


The School of Management team of Politecnico di Milano wins the Italian final of the CFA Research Challenge 2023, a global finance competition sponsored by CFA Institute and promoted in our country by CFA Society Italy with the support of PwC Italia and Kaplan Schweser.

The final involved 10 universities, 48 students and over 30 professionals and took place at the PwC Italia headquarters in Milan  on Tuesday 28 February. Teams from the following universities participated in the Italian phase, coordinated by CFA Society Italy: Università Cattolica of Milan, Politecnico di Milano, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Tor Vergata University of Rome, University of Florence, University of Bologna, Sapienza University of Rome, University of Pavia, Polytechnic University of Marche and Federico II University of Naples.

Under the guidance of professors Laura Grassi and Marco Giorgino and mentor Giacomo Saibene, Management Engineering students Alberto Giannetto, Gabriel Mazzante, Andrea Marconi, Giulio Galloni and Alberto Peccol presented their financial analysis on the Technogym stock to a jury of six financial sector experts: Roberto Sollevanti, Andrea Bonfà, Mauro Baragiola, Alberto Mari, CFA, Angelo Meda, CFA, CIPM, Pinuccia Parini.

Politecnico di Milano will continue directly to the EMEA regional semi-finals (Europe, Middle East and Africa), to be held next 6-7 April. As evidence of the high quality of our students and of the professionals who follow them, Italy already won the EMEA regional final in 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2022.

The world grand final will be held on 3 May 2023, where the EMEA, America and Pacific Asia winners will be competing against each other.

“This victory represents an important milestone in our professional careers, and we are proud of our hard work to achieve it. The CFA Research Challenge has given us the opportunity to measure ourselves against other students from other universities and to put into practice the topics we have studied during our academic careers.” These were the first words expressed by Alberto Giannetto, Gabriel Mazzante, Andrea Marconi, Giulio Galloni and Alberto Peccol, members of the winning Italian team. “We sincerely thank our teachers Laura Grassi and Marco Giorgino and our mentor Giacomo Saibene. Without them we would never have reached this milestone. We are looking forward to the next phase of the competition and feel confident moving forward.”

“Over the past 10 years, the Politecnico team has always been able to show its skill both at Italian and international level.” So said Politecnico di Milano professors Laura Grassi, Assistant Professor of Investment Banking, and Marco Giorgino, Full Professor of Financial Markets and Institutions. “As their professors, we are very proud of the skills that our School instils in them, allowing them to achieve these excellent results which are confirmed year after year.”

“After my experience of participating in the CFA Research Challenge as a student in 2011, it has been a great pleasure, as well as an incredible thrill, to mentor this time, helping this amazing team to challenge their limits and construct a solid critical analysis and careful financial evaluation.” said Giacomo Saibene, mentor of the winning team and member of the Italian team that won the world competition in 2011.

“The Research Challenge is an initiative that directs towards important objectives in the world of education and academia. Bringing students closer to the world of work by combining academic knowledge with the techniques and tools used by professionals in the financial sector is getting more and more relevant. Furthermore, we want excellence of our Italian universities to stand out at a European and global level.” commented Giuliano Palumbo, CFA, President of CFA Society Italy.

“In its work over the years, CFA Society Italy has forged a strong relationship with Italian universities to promote the principles of integrity and professional excellence among the younger generations.” said the project co-ordinator, Giuseppe Quarto di Palo, CFA. “We are happy to be able to offer universities and their promising students the opportunity to measure themselves in a realistic competition aimed at reproducing the experience of research offices at management companies or investment houses. The best students are also offered scholarships to access the CFA Programme: our wish is to enable them to obtain a globally recognised certification in the financial sector.”


When finance rhymes with innovation. Welfin introduces itself

An idea, project work, a startup: Welfin’s story progressed from the classrooms of MIP to the financial market thanks to its strong innovative imprint. It will be the first P2P loan platform with credit guaranteed by a company to be launched on the market. Its founders tell about the project.

«In Italy the consumer credit market is constantly expanding and P2P (peer to peer) loans continue to have great potential». Why not start from this and rethink credit between private players in a new intra and inter-corporate perspective? This is the reflection from which Ideo Righi, Francesco Giordani, Alessandra Bellerio and Roberto Bertani, founders of Welfin, as well as 2018 Part-time EMBA alumni, began.
Welfin is a platform that revolutionizes credit between employees, allowing one or more company communities to obtain the maximum from sharing their resources. In the words of its five founders, «Welfin brings together lender, borrower and company (acting as guarantor) by promoting the creation of favourable conditions for all players involved». Let’s take a closer look.

A business model in which all parties are in agreement

In a consumer credit market with interest rates that tend towards the high side, credit concession policies on the part of companies are often cautious and the cost of debt collection expensive. «Welfin steps in, creating a virtuous circle that rewards the three players involved, lender, borrower and company, through a win-win-win system» explains Francesco. «Win for the lender, because they have a guaranteed return from the company at above-market rates; win for the borrower because they also obtain favourable rates and win for the company, which acting as a guarantor, increases the sense of belonging of its employees and improves its reputation», continues Alessandra. «Welfin offers the company a new welfare instrument with which to optimize the management of outstanding credit, creating a shared economic benefit by focusing on financial innovation – stresses Ideo -. There are already many entrepreneurs who, aware of the efficiency of Welfin’s business model, want to implement the platform as soon as possible».

Genesis and development of Welfin. From project work to the choice of “doing business”

But what was the starting point? «The observation of an entrepreneurial reality suffering from the insolvency of its employees towards consumer credit institutions allowed us to study a system that could help all parties involved, from the company to employees. We therefore identified a need and devised a solution» explains Ideo. For Alessandra, «the key values that inspired Welfin were ethics, transparency and usefulness for employees». It’s an idea that was first project work for the 2018 Part-time EMBA and then – thanks to the trust and success achieved – became a startup. «When we realized its potential, we decided to “do business”» says Francesco. «We choose each other inside the classroom of the master’s programme, and we created a close-knit, cross-cutting team, with previous business experience and thus a clear perception of risks. A team whose members are on the same wavelength, both in terms of personal and professional growth», comments Alessandra.

Finance awards sustainable innovation

Welfin won the “Fintech & Insurtech 2019” Prize, set up by the Observatory of Politecnico di Milano, for the most innovative projects in the financial field. What were its winning attributes? «A brand-new business model that is able to innovate the financial sector in a sustainable and intelligent way» its creators say. «Thanks to the recognition obtained we’ll begin a period of innovation through PoliHub, at the same time as developing all the aspects necessary to go to market, from tax to legal ones, so as to be ready at the official kick-off».
The company has also begun a dialogue with the Bank of Italy. «We carried out an initial assessment of the regulatory compliance of the business model. An experience that allowed us to confirm and offered food for thought to make it to the go to market phase even more prepared», according to Francesco, Alessandra and Ideo, who conclude by illustrating the role MIP had in this experience and its strengths: «Its network, the professionalism of professors and the enormous support in all phases of product development. The master’s programme guaranteed us an entrepreneurial, highly pragmatic and interactive experience and was also an incubator of talent and open-mindedness for the business application models and leadership development. And we believe Welfin’s business model could be even more effective in the Covid-19 recovery period, when in the face of increased obstacles for consumer credit access, it will provide support for families and individual workers in difficulty».
All there’s left to do is to (re)start.

Politecnico di Milano wins the Italian CFA Research Challenge

With the equity research report on Ferrari, the students of Politecnico di Milano defeat Università Cattolica and Università Politecnica delle Marche and are getting ready for the EMEA Regional phase. The Global Final will be held on April 22nd


Politecnico di Milano wins the Italian final of the CFA Research Challenge 2020, a world finance competition organized by the CFA Institute and promoted in Italy by FactSet, Fidelity International, Kaplan Schweser and PwC Italia.
The event took place remotely on Thursday, March 5th, following the provisions issued by the Ministry of Health in agreement with the President of the Lombardy Region, and involved nine universities, 43 students and over 30 professionals. The Italian phase, coordinated by CFA Society Italy, was attended by the teams representing the following universities: Università Cattolica di Milano, SDA Bocconi, Politecnico di Milano, Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Università Carlo Cattaneo LIUC, Libera Università di Bolzano, Università di Pavia, Università Politecnica delle Marche and Università di Napoli Federico II.

Students Marco Aurélio De Oliveira Jesus, Luca Marconi, Matteo Muzio, Giovanni Pintus and Beatrice Sartori, under the guidance of faculty advisors Marco Giorgino and Laura Grassi and mentor CFA Alberto Mari, presented their investment case on Ferrari to a jury of six financial experts: Christian Alessandrini (PwC Italy), Alberto Chiandetti, CFA (Fidelity International), Gabriele Montalbetti, CFA, CIPM (Consultinvest), Marco Greco (Value Track), Pinuccia Parini (Family Strategy) and Carla Scarano (Anima SGR). The second and third place were awarded to Università Cattolica and Università Politecnica delle Marche respectively.

Politecnico di Milano will continue directly to the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Regional Final, which will be held on April 1st and 2nd, 2020. An evidence of the high quality of our students and the professionals who assist them, back in 2016, 2014 and 2011 Italy was successful in winning the EMEA regional final.
The Global Finals will take place on April 22nd 2020, bringing together the winners from EMEA, Americas and Asia Pacific.

We are really happy with the result, which rewards every single effort made during these 4 months. The teamwork and the experience gained are, together with the victory, the biggest prize“. These are the first words expressed by the winning team of Politecnico di Milano. “We would like to thank CFA Society Italy for the organization of the challenge and in particular Mr. Quarto di Palo, Ferrari‘s Investor Relations team for the support and availability, our highly esteemed CFA mentor, Alberto Mari, who dedicated time, energy and above all never stopped believing in us, Prof. Marco Giorgino and Prof. Laura Grassi of Politecnico di Milano for giving us the opportunity to participate in this fantastic experience“.

This year the company was certainly very challenging, a symbol of our country. We are very happy that our students’ work has been appreciated by the judges“, commented Marco Giorgino and Laura Grassi, respectively, professors of Financial Markets and Institutions and Investment Banking at the Politecnico di Milano. “Being the reigning champions and winning the Italian finals for many years now has generated some pressure and expectations, but this motivates students to give their best. Now, however, a new challenge awaits us and the goal will be to proudly represent our Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering and the Politecnico di Milano at EMEA level“.

CFA Society Italy, in its many years of activity, has built an intense relationship with Italian universities to promote the principles of integrity and professional excellence among the younger generations“. Giuseppe Quarto di Palo, CFA, Director of CFA Society Italy and coordinator of the CFA Research Challenge in Italy, said: “We are happy to be able to offer universities and their talents the opportunity to compete in a realistic competition, aimed at reproducing the experience of an equity research department of asset management companies or investment houses. We also offer scholarships to the best students to access the CFA Program, in order to obtain a globally recognized certification in the financial industry“.

This initiative makes it possible to achieve some important objectives in the field of education and academics. First, it is to bring students closer to the labor market by combining academic knowledge with the techniques and tools used by professionals in the financial sector. The second objective is to highlight our Italian university excellence at European and Global level“, commented Giancarlo Sandrin, CFA, President, CFA Society Italy. “This project could not exist without the valuable contribution of the association’s volunteers and the partners who supported the initiative like FactSet, Fidelity International, Kaplan Schweser, PwC Italia and Ferrari, the Maranello-based company being researched by students“.

FactSet is extremely pleased to have supported CFA Research Challenge in Italy for the fifth year in a row by offering our analytical platform to students, professors and mentors“, mentioned Dorin Agache, Account Manager & Academic Sales at FactSet. “One of our main goals is to bridge the gap between the university and the labor market by enabling all participants to have access to the tools and market data needed to fully simulate the profession of financial analysts. Our warmest congratulations first go to Politecnico di Milano, which will continue the competition towards the EMEA title, but also to all the other universities that invest time and resources to improve the quality of teaching and believe in the development value of this extraordinary initiative organized by CFA Institute.”