In Italy there are qualities hard to find anywhere else in the world: business acumen, rich culture, an eye for beauty and also renowned research centres. These are the weapons used by small and medium-size Italian enterprises (SMEs) to emerge from this economic crisis.
The main challenge for the Italian economy in the third millennium is to inject new life into the business structure. This could be done by investing/focusing on research, creativity and sustainability and relying on the Italians’ ability to create quality products/services; focusing on advanced technologies, the web and on the sharing economy.
SMEs are the backbone of the highly versatile Italian manufacturing sector and represent what is known and highly renowned worldwide as the “Made in Italy” brand.
Italian SMEs have some common traits; they are innovative, green and highly creative. They strive to produce quality products, they are competitive and have a strong heritage and business link with the region where they are based but, at the same time, they operate worldwide.
According to the latest CNA (an Italian association of small companies) and Symbola Foundation report*, Italy is the second European country after Germany in terms of the number of companies that in the last three years have introduced innovations and this is thanks to its SMEs.
In Italy, 80 per cent of 65,481 companies that have invested/focused on innovation have less than 50 employees. Innovation, cultural heritage and inspiration are the pillars of the success of the “Made in Italy” brand. The cultural and creative sector has created about 1.4 million jobs and Italy has filed more patents than both France and the United Kingdom (Italy ranks first, second or third in 22 out of 32 categories). In Europe, Italy is second only to Germany in terms of number of patents filed. Moreover, 58 per cent of Italian SMEs employ professionals operating in the creative sector.
Italian SMEs with fewer than 50 employees lead the rising of the “green economy” in Europe. In 2014, 51 per cent of Italian SMEs had at least one role responsible for environmental issues compared to 37 per cent in the UK, 32 per cent in France and 29 per cent in Germany. Green economy is also the strategic choice for those companies dealing with international markets. Within the manufacturing sector in 2014, companies with a green footprint saw better export results than those that didn’t invest in the green economy. Similarly, those companies that invested in “innovation” posted better export results than those that did not.
Italians’ SMEs with fewer than 50 employees account for 20 per cent (€77 billion) of the total value generated by the manufacturing sector in Europe. In fact, the two provinces of Brescia and Bergamo (Northern Italy) are the leading two manufacturing areas in Europe, even ahead of Wolfsburg (Germany), home of the car giant Volkswagen. Furthermore, Italian SMEs account for 20 per cent of the total number of European SMEs which export their products outside the Euro-zone (more than German SMEs;14.5 per cent ). In Italy, SMEs account for as much as 90 per cent of all Italian manufacturing companies that export.
It is not necessary to buy stocks to invest in Italian SMEs. In fact, from 2012 bonds (so-called “minibonds”) are available to investors. It is not a coincidence that, by and large, the companies issuing minibonds are those that have managed to distinguish themselves and go on the market to raise more funds to reinvest in their business. Those companies issuing bonds must produce their financial statements (historic and future business plans) to the investment community and in doing so they become “transparent” to potential investors.
(*“Le Pmi e la sfida della qualità: un’economia a misura”).
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