Innovation: Italy at the top of scientific research, but more R&D is needed

According to the new Ambrosetti Innosystem Index, our country is 18th out of the 22 analyzed due to the lack of ability to translate academic excellence into economic and industrial value. From the metaverse to transport, the road to a Super smart society is still long 26 May 2022 Veronica Balocco

Robotics, bioeconomy, metaverse, digitalization of the PA, decarbonization and ecological transition are the challenges from which to take advantage of the opportunities of a Super smart society and develop in the coming years a sustainable, resilient and human-centric society. However, we need to accelerate on innovation: Italy today ranks fifth last – a long distance from Germany and France – in terms of the innovation ecosystem. This is what emerges from the 2022 report "Super smart society: towards a more sustainable, resilient and human-centric future", produced by the Innotech community of The European House – Ambrosetti: presented on the occasion of the eleventh Technology forum, the report reflects on the new concept of Super smart society and contains the update of the Ambrosetti Innosystem Index (AII), which considers the last three years of available data 2018-2020 and classifies the overall innovation performance of 22 benchmark countries through the analysis of 14 key performance indicators. "The report shows an Italy with some important strengths, such as the bioeconomy and the ability of our researchers to produce scientific excellence, but at the same time held back and with great opportunities to be seized with regard to the ability to build a solid innovation ecosystem, an essential condition for accelerating the path towards sustainable development and the Super Smart Society", explains Valerio De Molli, managing partner & CEO of The European House – Ambrosetti. "To provide a compass for the business community and policy makers and guide the country's future strategic choices in the field of innovation, in the Report we put forward four programmatic proposals. First of all, it is necessary to direct the resources of the PNRR towards projects that can maximize the potential for innovation that already exists in the country. Secondly, to create a virtuous mechanism to translate our primacy of scientific research into concrete innovation, entrusting a key role to technology transfer offices. It is also necessary to transform Italy into a 'country for unicorns', promoting reforms in support of innovative entrepreneurship and venture capital financing. Finally, launch a New Deal of Skills to prepare the Italian citizens and companies of today and tomorrow to thrive in a digital and sustainable society". Index of topics • Italy in the back of innovation • Top academic research quality • Steps towards a Super smart society Italy in the back of innovation According to the update of the Ambrosetti Innosystem Index (AII), in the innovation ecosystem Italy is in the rear, ranking fifth last (in 18th place with a score of 3.3). In first place are the United States, with a score of 5.1 and in second place, Israel, Germany and Austria with a score of 4.6.

Among the fundamental elements to evaluate the performance as well as predict the growth and economic development of a country, the IIA highlights investments in R&D. Germany is ahead in Europe with 105.9 billion euros invested in R&D, more than four times Italy's investments (25.4 billion euros). Considering the global context and comparing R&D investments to GDP, Italy is not in the top 15 worldwide, ranking below the EU27 average (2.2%) with 1.5% of GDP allocated to research. Quality of academic research at the top Good with regard to the efficiency and quality of academic research: Italy is confirmed as an excellence with 1,594 citations per 100 researchers. On the other hand, the ability to translate scientific excellence into economic and industrial value through the registration of patents (19th place) is critical and also bad with regard to the rate of net student mobility, compared to which it is positioned as the last country with a net positive balance between incoming and outgoing students. Finally, AII 2022 measured the ability of an ecosystem to protect the innovation produced and to transform innovative ideas into new business realities. Considering the number of start-ups compared per million inhabitants of each country, at EU level Estonia is the record with 865 start-ups / million inhabitants, while Italy is in the second half of the ranking with 234 start-ups / million inhabitants: a value still higher than the EU average (190 start-ups / million inhabitants). As of December 31, 2021, Italy has 14,077 innovative start-ups registered in the business register, most of which (75.7%) operate in business services. The two most important poles of the country are confirmed rome and Milan, where 18.7% and 10.9% of total startups are located respectively. Finally, the report takes into account the data that emerge from the Digital economy and society index (Desi) of the European Commission: in 2021 Italy is below the EU average of 5.18 points. In the coming years, it will therefore be essential to have effective planning and greater investments especially with regard to human capital, connectivity, digital public services and integration of digital technologies. Steps towards a Super smart society Metaverse. The nearest future will not be able to ignore the impact of the Metaverse, which has opened up worlds and possibilities unthinkable until a few years ago. In addition to sectors such as gaming and entertainment, there will be spaces for use in fashion, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and education. The report estimates that the number of viewers marketed each year has already exceeded 5 million units per year and, with the outbreak of the pandemic, has undergone a strong acceleration: in 2022 it will reach 15 million units sold every year. Robotics. The use of automation technologies and the use of robots extend over various areas, both related to the industrial context and to the daily life of citizens. This is a fast-growing market: in 2021, 435 thousand new units were produced, which will reach 518 thousand in 2024. The adoption of robots in production processes (and not only) is also interconnected with the issue of population aging: the progressive aging of the population is causing imbalances between demand and supply of labor and automation represents a potential solution, allowing companies to keep their productivity unchanged. Robotics plays an important role in the automotive sector, with 84% of players relying on new technologies. The relationship between robotics and the healthcare sector is also interesting: 57% of global businesses have implemented robotic solutions, able to bring benefits in terms of safety, productivity and quality of work. Transport and mobility. To achieve the ambitious objectives set by the Member States of the European Union in terms of decarbonization, it will be essential to intervene in the transport sector, currently among the most polluting: in 1990 it represented 14% of total emissions (672 Mton of CO2eq on 4.6 million Mton), while in 2019 25% (834 Mton on 3.4 Mton). Italy, the second European country for the rate of motorization, will have to intervene above all on the front of private cars. Fundamental will be the funds allocated by the Italian PNRR (34 billion euros) which will serve to promote, among other things, the electric conversion of public and private transport, the development of rapid mass transport and the digitalization of logistics. Technologies for decarbonization. Decarbonisation is the process of reducing the carbon-hydrogen ratio of energy sources. On the operational level, a hub for CO₂ storage off the coast of Ravenna is being created, the first in the Mediterranean able to exploit the completely impermeable disused gas fields. Record figures also concern nuclear fusion, which, in 2020, recorded 300 million in private investments in companies in the sector. Finally, the contribution of digital to the decarbonization process will be fundamental: in 2050, among the sectors in which the highest CO2 savings are expected thanks to the adoption of digital technologies are transport (-22.8%), electricity production (-13.4%) and industrial processes (-8.6%). Bioeconomy and circular supply chains. The crisis associated with the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of the bioeconomy, which has recorded a less marked contraction in production than the total economy. As for Italy, in 2020, the sector generated a turnover of 317 billion euros (10.2% of the national GDP) and absorbed a workforce of about 2 million units (7.9% of the total). Moreover, in 2020 the country is the first in Europe for the Overall Circularity Index and confirms its excellence and a worldwide reference point for scientific research in the bioeconomy. Government-as-a-platform. The need for digitalization is now essential for the PA, with a view to improving access to goods and services for citizens and businesses. In 2021, Italy's performance was confirmed below the European average, despite the improvements recorded in recent years: according to Desi, the level of digital public services places the country in 18th place. Italy, on the other hand, performs better than the European average in terms of offering digital public services for companies and the availability of Open Data. Among the initiatives put in place are the acceleration in the adoption of the number of digital identities Spid or the creation of the IO platform that in May 2022 recorded 29.3 million downloads. However, much remains to be done and first and foremost we need a greater centrality of people and their skills.