From its foundation as an administrative unit of the Canton Ticino in the 1960's the institute has been monitoring the regional economy. In 1996, year of the foundation of the Università della Svizzera italiana, it has been integrated in the Faculty of Economics. In the sequel, the research activities were organized according to a pure university logic with the integration of PhD students and post-docs. The applied research for the Canton and its economy has been reorganized and since 2005 is regulated in the framework of a service contract. These services are delivered via three Observatories, respectively, on Tourism (O-Tur), Economic Policy (O-Pol) and Labor Market (O-Lav).
The field of research at the institute covers the various aspects of regional and urban economics, ranging from regional growth and development to competitiveness, and from labor market issues to transportation and mobility. Recently an important research activity is developing in the field of tourism, linked to the Master in International Tourism and its network.
Teaching by members of the institute covers microeconomics, international, regional and urban economics, and economics of tourism, leisure and mobility.