Beauty, Partnerships, Innovation: three accelerators for the Italian industry

When addressing the competitiveness of Italian industry and its companies, our reflection should start with three principal areas of intervention.

First of all, we must valorize Italy as the Homeland of Beauty. In recent decades, the esthetic and experiential industry has been gaining dominance in worldwide consumption, as Jeremy Rifkin predicted already fifteen years ago. In this sector, the high-end segment stands out, a market that today numbers 330 million consumers worldwide and is destined to rise to 440 million in 2020. Worldwide consumption in this segment totals 730 billion Euros and could increase to 880 billion in 2020. The qualitative leadership of Italy’s share in the “top of the range” segment is innate and deeply rooted in the unique historical-cultural patrimony that distinguishes this country. In fact, no other nation in the world makes so many high-end products in so many different manufacturing sectors. With a turnover of roughly 100 billion Euros and a 4% average annual growth rate, Italy’s luxury industry today enjoys a worldwide market share of approximately 10%. But we can do much better: by 2024, our objective is to further increase this share, up to 15%, and a 7.7% average annual growth rate. An ambitious yet reachable goal.

Secondly, we must work in an integrated manner. Our competitiveness is a direct consequence of the competitiveness of the so-called Countrywide System, just like industry’s competitiveness is a direct consequence of that of the industrial system as a whole; this hold true in every productive sector.  The success of Italy’s high-end industry (co-leader worldwide alongside France), with a 25% share in the personal goods segment, is thanks to a strong system composed of actors who are sometimes unaware of their contribution to the system’s competitiveness. These actors are the small industries, the associations and, naturally, the institutions. This system, which underpins the above-mentioned “Italy, Homeland of Beauty,” is implicit and must be strengthened. In order to work in an integrated manner we must share a vision and a common project, through relations based on what are known as weak ties. Thus, we must create an all-around public-private partnership, which lets private entities dialogue among themselves and with the public administration.

Innovation is another topic: we must aim for radical innovation. Those technologies which are transforming society are characterized by vertical experience curves. I’m not only referring to the digital world but also to the nanotechnologies, biotechnology, the neurosciences, energy and much more. Italy does not play a leading role in any of these fields. But my point is a different one. The impact of these technologies on traditional industry is overwhelming because they are rapidly being applied to any product and any industrial process, in every sector. The growth rates created by these vertical experience curves are no longer compatible with the incremental innovation typical of the Italian approach (making the same products, with higher quality and at lower costs). Therefore, we must envisage innovation that is radical, revolutionary instead of evolutionary, and based on completely innovative goods, by implementing new technologies in products and industrial processes.

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