Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Italian companies and innovation: what is the situation in our country?

The term “innovation” is now on everyone’s lips, but our country still shows itself behind in the implementation of true Open Innovation.

We have often talked about the difficulties that every company can encounter in its path of renewal, in many cases held back by resistance to change and digital culture. Very often it is thought that adopting new technology or making a startup call is synonymous with innovation, but this is only partially true. Making innovation is also a matter of mindset, a cultural process that must gradually be affirmed.

A mindset that, in our country, should be established first of all between the Government and the Public Administration to be able to give the right boost to our industrial fabric.

But there are still companies that are raising the flag of Open Innovation by guiding those who, on the other hand, still have some fears. In fact, from research by Mind The Bridge, a photograph of the situation of our local companies emerges that bodes well.

Open Innovation in Italy: what is the current situation?

According to the data of the Italian companies that are reported in the research, there is a gap concerning other European countries, where, above all, it is the size of the allocated investments that makes the difference. Think of Spain which, through the Corporate Venture alone, invests 2.6 times more than Italy, while France and Germany even between 7 and 10 times more.

The report also includes an Open Innovation Index, which is a comparison parameter between Italian and European companies that contains an overall evaluation of all the internal and external innovation activities that are carried out. The set of these assessments then allows the comparison between companies in an Open Innovation Matrix shown below.

The comparison shows that the Italian average (obtained by considering the top 25 companies in the research) is around a value of 2.8 for this index, compared to 3.8 which corresponds to the European average.

Therefore, there is a clear separation between our industrial fabric and the European one, but the data itself is not all that negative.

Compared to 2020, there is an increase of 0.2 points which confirms that the growth trend is positive.

Furthermore, it is not only large companies that apply Open Innovation models but also SMEs – more or less large and structured – which have recently increasingly understood the potential of this approach.

Although very often Open Innovation activities are used for communication, branding, and PR reasons the analyzes show that today more and more companies are starting to apply real models of open collaboration alongside a medium-long term strategic vision.

What are the companies that are applying Open Innovation models?

Enel certainly stands out on the Italian scene, the only Italian insurance company that obtained an index higher than 3.8 in the Mind The Bridge research.

However, we also report other initiatives of interest.

Think of the Prysmian Group, recently awarded at the SMAU event, which is implementing a series of actions to support innovation at a global level, to confirm itself as a leading player in the processes of the energy transition, digitization, and sustainability at the service of its customers and communities. The company is involving the employees of all its factories around the world in multifunctional groups that include the Departments of Operations, Quality, and Digital Innovation as part of a path aimed at defining a global strategy for the digitization of the production system.

Another example is that of Pirelli, which in January 2021 launched a “turnkey” service available to employees that includes a fleet of high-end e-bikes, a digital platform for managing reservations, ordinary maintenance, and marketing and communication support.

All this to preside over the emerging micro-mobility market by offering an innovative service and promoting a style of sustainable mobility towards its employees, but also towards partners and client companies.

There are also other virtuous examples based on collaboration mechanisms with startups and acquisitions.

For example: in January 2020 Saipem acquired a proprietary CO2 capture technology from a Canadian startup; Tim has been working for some years with the Askdata startup to generate data analytics in real-time and optimize interventions on the plants; ENI has launched a real Coalescence Innovation program that starts from the training model of young talents within the Eni Joule business school and extends to the implementation of real procurement and collaboration platforms with startups; Poste has defined collaboration agreements with growing startups such as Milkman and Sender for the management of some delivery phases.

From this examination, it emerges that, after all, the situation of Open Innovation in our country is not so bad. The push towards new models of open collaboration is underway, albeit rather slow compared to the average for foreign companies.

The challenge for the next decade is to bring the entire fabric of Italian SMEs to digitize and apply open models. To this end, it will be essential to increase investment in innovation but, above all, to gradually remove the obstacles and fears of managers who in the era of the new normal often find themselves guiding companies with methods, tools, and, above all, outdated mentalities.

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