The Annual Growth Survey 2016 highlighted that investing in R&I at national level is critical for growth and that therefore Member States should continue to prioritise public investments in R&I, ensuring their efficiency and leverage with regard to business investment. Member States need to keep up the pace of reforms to ensure an investment-friendly environment. See more information about the European Semester.
The European Semester supports Member States' structural reforms in different policy areas to promote jobs, growth and investment. Research and innovation play a key role in this context. That is why the Commission gives recommendations to and closely work with the Member States to increase the performance of their national R&I systems.
Have a look and see how the country is performing.
Italy’s R&D investment still lags behind that of other EU countries, being significantly below the EU average of 2.03 % in 2015. The gap with the EU average for R&D expenditure by the private sector remained significantly larger than for public R&D expenditure, while between 2007 and 2015 the Italian government’s budget allocated to R&D activities has fallen from EUR 9.9 billion to EUR 8.3 billion.
The lack of highly-skilled people holds back Italy’s innovation performance. Italy still has an insufficient number of highly skilled people, in particular in science, engineering and computing. This is driven by the country’s low tertiary education attainment rate and the low number of new graduates in relevant study domains. In addition, a significant number of Italian researchers left the country owing to a lack of career prospects or more attractive salaries, and this brain drain has so far not been offset by the arrival of foreign researchers.
Other factors also explain Italy’s innovation performance lag. Cooperation between academia and business in Italy remains limited, thereby hampering an efficient transfer of knowledge or leverage effect on firms’ R&D investment, although Italy performs relatively well in terms of the quality of its scientific publications base. In addition, framework conditions for innovation in Italy are unfavourable to the creation and growth of R&D intensive firms. Italy ranks 21st in the EU on the proportion of employment in high-growth enterprises (9.5 % as against an EU average of 13 %), and most of those firms do not operate in knowledge-intensive innovative sectors. Furthermore, conservative bank lending policies and the underdevelopment of capital markets hampers innovative start-ups’ access to external funding.
Italy adopted new measures to improve its innovation performance. First, in May 2016, the country launched (with a two-year delay) its new 2015-2020 national research programme, which is fully operational since July 2016. The programme has a budget of EUR 2.5 billion for the 2015-2017 period, and is structured around six priorities (i.e. human capital, internationalisation, research infrastructures, public-private cooperation, southern Italy, and efficiency and quality of public spending). Second, in September 2016, the government presented its new ‘Industry 4.0’ strategy, which aims to modernise production processes and move Italian firms up in value chains, primarily through the use of fiscal incentives. The plan includes measures to support innovative investment, SMEs’ equity financing and preferential treatment for innovative start-ups.