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Tech transformation

According to the analysis by Unioncamere and Dintec, over half of the European patents filed by Italy are related to human and technical industrial and transport needs

Published: Mon 25 Apr 2022, 11:58 AM

Italy is experiencing a profound technological transformation fuelled by both the private and the public sector, with the latter focused on adopting strategies to raise the frontier of the cutting-edge research and innovation.

Some recent results confirm this trend: in 2019/2020 the number of Italian companies enrolled in the National Register of Innovative Startups increased by 3 per cent (for a total of more than 11 thousand) as well as the average value of investments in startups (+20 per cent). Furthermore, the number of Italian patent applications published by the European Patent Office increased by more than 5.3 per cent, which brings the total number of Italian inventions protected at the European level to almost 52 thousand since 2008.

In this framework, the Italian Government is playing a crucial role sustaining the innovative development of private and public sectors thanks to the huge financial resources of the National Programme for Recovery and Resilience – PNRR, the long-term strategic programme of EU-funded reforms and public spending. Regarding the breakup of the funds, 27 per cent of these resources are devoted to digitalisation and innovation processes as key levers to implement the axes of the PNRR. These are made up of ecological transition, creation of infrastructure for sustainable mobility, education and research, inclusion and cohesion and health.

Most analysts agree that this is a strategy, which expands the actions already taken to redefine the national ecosystem (in particular, the recent Industry 4.0 strategy) and to broaden the availability of high-level skilled workers. In this regard, an overall strategy aimed at increasing the innovation and digitisation awareness of businesses, public services and population to strengthen Italy’s international competitiveness and meet global challenges is the end-goal.

PNRR pays also great attention to public administration’s performance and population digital growth by pursuing five ambitious goals:

1. Spreading digital identity among, at least, 70 per cent of the population;

2. Closing the digital skills gap, with at least 70 per cent of the population being digitally savvy;

3. Bringing about 75 per cent of Italian PAs to use cloud services;

4. Reaching at least 80 per cent of essential public services delivered online;

5. Reach 100 per cent of Italian households and businesses with ultra-wideband networks.

In 2020, Italian innovation set a new high. Despite the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, the number of patents, signalling the proliferation of innovation and research, showed no signs of slowing. There are 4,465 Italian patent applications published by the European patent office (EPO) in 2020, against 4,242 in 2019 (+ 5.3 per cent). Since 2008, almost 52 thousand Italian inventions have been protected at European level and almost 80 per cent are due to subjects (companies, research bodies and individuals) residing in the northern regions. This is demonstrated by the analysis carried out by Unioncamere – Dintec and based on the patents published by the EPO between 2019 and 2020.

Most of the patents that came to light in Italy are focused towards ‘human needs’ and ‘industrial and transport techniques’ (respectively at 23.1 and 30.5 per cent). The first includes patents relating to different fields of activity: from agriculture to clothing, passing through tobacco and sport; while the second deals with manufacturing and automotive technologies. Compared to the pre-pandemic year, the greatest increases mainly concern some very specific sectors. This includes + 52.7 per cent increase for innovations regarding textile products and paper (which went from 75 to 115) and a + 10.5 per cent increase for the ‘needs human rights’ (935 patents published in 2019, 1,033 those in 2020). On the other hand, mechanics (-5.1 per cent) and fixed construction (-2.8 per cent) showed negative growth.

One patent out of five of those published in 2020 refers to KET (Key enabling technologies), referring to the technologies that the European Commission has defined as enabling in all respects. These comprise biotech, photonics, advanced materials, nano and micro-electronics, nanotechnologies and advanced manufacturing. The latter also includes, robot technology which witnessed further development: in 2020 there are 53 more patent applications, for a total of 670 published. Photonics, used for data transmission within optical fibers, are also progressing, registering 25 more patents than the previous year, for a total of 74 inventions published in 2020.

With regards to regions, Tuscany is just above Lazio (with 252 applications and 239 respectively). Among the provinces, on the other hand, Milan leads with 763 applications in 2022, followed by Turin (322) and Bologna (320), and in fourth place Rome with 217 applications.

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