Innovation and circularity for a sustainable and competitive Italy

Future-proof solutions for the environment, economy and society.

Published on Friday, 3 March 2023

Environmental and social sustainability, economic growth and energy independence: the circular economy is a strategic tool to use for Italy’s growth and to redesign economic models. The models need to be capable of bringing tangible benefits to every area of society, accelerating the transition towards renewable resources and revolutionizing supply chains to make them increasingly efficient, competitive and resilient.

This is a goal in which innovation, both in technology and in thought, represents a vital driving force but it must be supported by the active participation of businesses and institutions to truly become a winning systemic paradigm.

We launched this message on Wednesday, March 1, during the Innovation for Circularity Conference – Future-proof solutions to transform a country’s economy, held at the Ara Pacis in Rome and organized together with the COTEC Foundation for Technological Innovation. It offered an opportunity for dialogue, bringing together various representatives from the business, political and research worlds, to reiterate the need for a shared commitment and broad strategies that can make the circular economy’s principles and benefits increasingly concrete within the industrial and social fabric of Italy.

The event, moderated by the journalist Gianni Riotta, included the participation of Michele Crisostomo, Enel President, Adolfo Urso, Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy, Ami Appelbaum, Chief Scientist and Chairman of the Board of the Israel Innovation Authority, Katia Da Ros, Confidustria Vice President, Ermete Realacci, Symbola Foundation President and Luigi Nicolais, COTEC President.

“The transition to the circular economy model requires a path of redefining the production processes to ensure that products and facilities are circular by design: built into their DNA. There cannot be an adoption of the circular economy without a strong innovation platform,” said Michele Crisostomo, summarizing the circular vision outlined in the document Enel for Italy: A Circular Economy Journey that delves into the many aspects of this model.

A cultural revolution accompanied by technological innovation, but also regulatory and governance innovation. The commitment of businesses and companies must be supported by politics and finance to accelerate this transition. “The circular economy offers tremendous opportunities for growth: in transportation, in the field of energy, in agriculture and in sustainable resource use,” stated Ami Appelbaum during his remarks. He continued, “Targeting this area with investment, innovative technologies and research means choosing not only the most sustainable path but also the one that is the most cost-effective.”

These same goals have also been embraced by the Italian government, which recognizes the synergy between public and private as a key step for the development of a new strategy devoted to the industrial and energy transition, which, according to Minister Adolfo Urso, could place Italy in a leadership role on the European scene. “In a socio-economic context in which businesses are called on to respond quickly to the challenges of an evolving market, it is necessary to have an Italian national industrial policy that rests, first and foremost, on a new European industrial policy. We are working on a Transition Plan 5.0 that brings together the objectives of digitization with those of the ecological transition, also relying on REPowerEU funds. The 3Sun Gigafactory is an example of investing on the dual track of innovation and sustainability.”

"We have to build supply chains that are increasingly strong, resilient and competitive. The business models will change from linear models to circular and regenerative models, optimizing resources to the point of eliminating environmental impact,” said Katia Da Ros hopefully. “This is a momentous challenge in which Europe and Italy have decided to act decisively. It is a challenge that we want to win and for which we will do our part".

The need to pursue this transition without neglecting people’s well-being was underlined by Luigi Nicolais as well. He said, “For this reason, we at COTEC, together with Enel Open Innovability®, have launched a challenge to find and reward the best innovation for workplace safety. Today, more than ever before, we need to put the physical and mental health of our workers, employees and colleagues at the center of our business model.”

According to Ermete Realacci, Italy is ready to take on this challenge, strengthened by an entrepreneurial fabric already marked by environmental awareness and innovative drive. Realacci said, “Our businesses recover around 80% of waste from production activities, which is 10% more than Germany and 30% more than the European average. There was a time when the interests of the environment seemed at odds with those of the economy. Today it is exactly the opposite. Those who do not choose the path of protecting the environment make businesses lose ground. Which is why with Enel, we continue to find and tell the stories of Italian excellence in the areas of innovation and the circular economy.”

In conclusion, as Luigi Nicolais observed, “The circular economy is a social revolution that involves everyone: small and big business, policy and research, production facilities, the digital world and bureaucracy. It is an evolution in which large companies like Enel play a fundamental role.” As President Crisostomo concluded, it is “a humanist revolution” that must be combined with consistent solutions in line with the new generation’s view of the world.”

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