Half Italian companies in the club of innovators but the strategies leave something to be desired
High investments in machinery for the 4.0 breakthrough but those in R&D, software for data analysis and skills are scarce. The photograph was taken by Assoconsult. Vice President Antonietti: “We need greater awareness and competitiveness passes through the ecosystem”
17 Mar 2022
The Italian production system is characterized by a good propensity to invest in innovation. Slightly more than half of Italian companies (53%) are in fact classifiable as innovators, with a very high intensity in the use of the leverage of investments in machinery and equipment, i.e. in tangible capital. On the other hand, there is a more limited use of different types of intangible assets, and in particular investments in research and development, in software and licenses for data analysis, in the renewal of workers’ skills. Given the high propensity to invest, the innovative strategies are generally low or medium-low complexity, i.e. they simultaneously activate few investment levers in tangible and intangible capital.
This is stated in the first Italian 2021 Innovation Report by Assoconsult (DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE), edited by the Confindustria Study Center with the support of Istat and presented yesterday at Confindustria Bergamo in the Kilometro Rosso space. The elements that emerged from the Report were illustrated during the event by the Vice President of Assoconsult with responsibility for Innovation Alberto Antonietti and by Livio Romano, Head of the Business and Industrial Systems Trends area of the Confindustria Study Center.
Index of topics
• Italy catches up on the 4.0 front
• We need a change of pace
Italy is catching up on the 4.0 front
“The economic crisis that has hit us in the last two years is only the most recent of the many challenges that Italian companies have faced in the last 15 years,” explained Romano. The succession of numerous obstacles, however, has also led many companies to undertake important innovation and transformation programs that have significantly increased their resilience and competitiveness. Throughout Europe there is a problem of poor penetration of digital technologies (not just 4.0 ones), but Italy has recovered its gap with the European average. For example, among large companies, the digitization gap has been bridged ”.
Antonietti, on the other hand, specified that “those who have initiated investment projects have often done so with an eye to advanced digital technology and the environment. Among innovative companies with at least 10 employees, 26% invested in digital 4.0 technologies and 67% in actions aimed at reducing the environmental impact of their activities. The percentage increases where the synergy between investments in tangible and intangible assets is greater, i.e. the complexity of the innovative strategies adopted. Furthermore, among the innovative companies, the ability to recover business volumes in the second half of 2020, after the months of the lockdown, was greater ”.
The percentage of those that recorded positive trend changes in revenues in the period June-October 2020 was about five points higher than non-innovative companies and was once again the highest within the group of companies which, before the outbreak of the pandemic, had invested with more complex innovation strategies. More innovators managed to increase turnover despite the pandemic. “The report”, concluded Antonietti, “shows how, compared to those who innovated, turnover grew by 16%, while for those who did not plan initiatives dedicated to innovation, turnover grew by only 10%”.
We need a change of pace
Overall, the report highlights how the Italian production system needs a change of pace in designing more articulated evolutionary paths, which are able to combine the traditional channel of investment in tangible assets with a greater enhancement of intangible ones. To do this, it is essential to increase the quality of the technical and managerial skills held by companies in our country. Faced with the epochal challenges of our time, it is essential that Italian companies maintain, as has historically happened, a high propensity to invest in innovation.
“But innovating is not enough”, Antonietti relaunched. “It also counts how you innovate. Focusing on intangible investments means strengthening, in all productive sectors, above all the endowment of human capital in Italian companies. The effort can only arise from a greater awareness on the part of the production system of the importance of focusing on the continuous training of its workforce and the inclusion of new qualified professionals, both technical and managerial. The competitiveness cannot be played out only at the level of the single company, even if it is large, but calls into question the ecosystem in which it operates, which includes not only the other companies upstream and downstream, but also public institutions, universities, research centers, intermediate bodies. All these players are called upon to make their contribution to increasing the quality of innovation, and therefore of Italy’s economic growth. This will also be possible thanks to the PNR, a phenomenal investment plan and a unique opportunity to transform the country system “.
easy to call innovators, I met large companies that in the space of 30 years have not even created a patent but proclaim themselves as innovation leaders. Outdated working methods and very high business costs. This is why the start-up phenomenon was born. A phenomenon that has also been marred by political manipulation.