The Enel approach, a model for Italy’s technology clusters

Published on Thursday, 16 May 2019

In order to innovate and grow, Italy needs to create synergies that will strengthen public-private collaboration on both a domestic and European level. It was with this in mind that the national technology clusters system was extended to help accelerate the processes involved in innovation and boost the competitiveness of Italian industry. 

This was also the theme at the centre of “Italian technology Clusters: the Structural Collaboration Platform”, an event co-hosted on May 14 by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) and Confindustria. Also participating were the latter’s Director General Marcella Panucci, Deputy Minister of Education Lorenzo Fioramonti, and Undersecretary for Economic Development Andrea Cioffi as well as the innovation managers of leading Italian-owned companies, including Ernesto Ciorra, our Head of Innovability.

The meeting centred on the presentation of the 12 national technology clusters, the activities that have been implemented so far and action plans for the future.  

The clusters are networks of public and private entities operating across Italy in sectors such as industrial research, training and technology transfer.  They help catalyse resources to meet the needs of local areas and the market, and to coordinate and strengthen the connection between the spheres of research and business through the involvement of SMEs and leading Italian companies.  Each cluster references a specific technology and application goal deemed strategic for Italy.

Eight clusters were created in 2012:  Aerospace; Agrifood; Green Chemistry; Smart Factory; Transport and Mobility Systems for Land and Sea; Technologies for Living Environments; Life Sciences; Technologies for Smart Communities. Four more were added recently: Energy; Design and Creativity Made in Italy; Blue Growth, focused on the marine economy; and Cultural Heritage.

“I think that clusters are vitally important,” declared Head of Innovability Ernesto Ciorra in his address, “but they also have a part to play in creating a strong national identity and in boosting cooperation at the very least with other European research institutes. Similar approaches have worked brilliantly elsewhere, thanks to two cultural factors. The first is humility: even the largest company needs to recognise the advantages of cooperating with small startups and external researchers, and networking with other stakeholders. The second is a willingness to forgo an element of corporate control: we can define the beginning of our strategy but then we need to share it with the ecosystems around us. If new technologies develop, we have to change our strategy.

According to Mr Ciorra, only in this way will it be possible to “define cluster governance with clear goals, tools to measure those goals, actions to associate with the clusters, adequate economic resources and talented people.”

Ciorra concluded thus: “If the clusters become instruments for finding ideas and projects that will benefit the nation, and which have an impact on energy, mobility and the Internet of Things, we are very open to collaboration and providing funds to work on those ideas.” An Open Innovability approach that Enel put at the centre of its business model quite some time ago.  

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