The environment for innovation: new roads for the growth of italian companies and Italy

Friday and Saturday, May 24 and 25 during the Technology Forum 2013 the second report entitled “The Environment for Innovation: New Roads for the Growth of Italian Companies and Italy” has been presented. It was prepared by the “Technology, Innovation and Technology Transfer” Community of the Ambrosetti Club with the goal of providing a tangible and constructive contribution to improving Italy’s ability to innovate and compete.

Monday, May 27, the Executive Summary has been published

The report is the fruit of 12 months of work and highlights what has been done to promote a culture of innovation in Italy, focusing on the challenges the country has yet to face to become competitive. The study underscores how innovation represents the true impetus for competitiveness and demonstrates how those countries that were the first to understand the importance of the positive cycle of innovation/productivity/growth have been better able to react to the current period of economic crisis. It is no accident that the United States, Asia and some European countries have built themselves up as international centers of reference in sectors with high added value.

Italy is paying the consequences of a system with a weak capacity for innovation: it invests just 1.26% of GDP in innovation, compared with an EU average of 2.1%. The country has trouble translating good ideas into higher GDP (for example, R&D-intense exports have dropped from 9% of the total in 2000 to the current level of 6.8%) and it does not seem prone to work with foreign inventors. Only 13.5% of Italian patents have a foreign co-inventor, compared with 24.5% in Great Britain, and just 12.1% of companies that innovate declare they work with outside research bodies/companies. And finally, Italy is lacking the financial impetus, i.e., those instruments required to maximize innovation time to market (for example, national venture capital – 70 million euros of investment in 2011 – is about 1/10 of German investment).

For these reasons, promoting innovative capacity is not only a priority for Italy, it is a strategic necessity.

The report also shows that the best way to win this challenge is to create innovation environments, “ecosystems” whose components of success are: attracting new (intellectual and financial) forces; the ability to capitalize on existing competencies; the ability to create the market and/or foresee key trends and generate a widespread entrepreneurial approach; a willingness to “risk” innovating; and concentrating R&D infrastructure.

The study further identifies three areas of the Italian ecosystem requiring immediate attention. According to the data collected, recreating a national environment capable of taking best advantage of the expertise available in its centers of knowledge and transferring this expertise to the corporate world in order to turn it into a market-oriented economic advantage, action must be taken in three areas:

1.Create an innovation environment strategy since Italy is one of the few advanced nations that has not prepared an organic and coherent strategy.

2.Finance innovation (the OECD has indicated lack of financing as one of the three main factors holding back Italy).

3.Promote technology transfer (TT) and the skills to overcome the “Italian paradox” struggling to translate into higher GDP.