The region of Emilia-Romagna is well known for its automotive and motorcycle industries, food production and the ceramic industry, all of which have developed in the form of large and successful industrial districts spread over the entire region. Demand for services is strong but the market for services is fragmented with a predominance of low-value added services. In addition, business start-ups remain small and the smallest service companies are very dependent on larger manufacturing companies. The level of internationalisation is quite low and the region remains a net importer of business services. Also, there are no strong service clusters in the region, with the exception of a tourism cluster situated on the Adriatic coast.
The areas to be promoted through service innovation
The focus of the demonstrator is on two service sectors: ICT and logistics. The objective is to foster service innovation in these areas in combination with local manufacturing companies, primarily in the machinery/equipment and the agro-food sectors.
Specific innovations are of course not pre-defined in the strategy. However, the broad aims are to:
Strengths and weaknesses in Emilia-Romagna’s innovation system
Lessons being learned that might be reflected in future policies
There are a number of important actions that have to be taken in Emilia-Romagna if its strategy is to be implemented successfully.
The ESIC team identified a need to provide a focal point for all service related initiatives. This need might be met through a specific ‘forum’ dedicated to service innovation that would bring together all the service innovation activities in the region.
It is also vital that any change is driven by local actors who have the trust and credibility and the networks to bring industry on board. The region will use local change agents to promote the available policy instruments such as network contracts and living labs, and to deliver genuinely new, service-focused, business interactions.
The Large-scale Demonstrator has to reflect both the demand and supply sides of the market and a series of ‘living labs’ focused on service innovation will be created with a specific focus on ICT and logistics.
The fragmentation of the service supply side can be reduced and this will enable a move towards higher value innovative services. The method that will be used to counteract the fragmentation is the dissemination of network contracts (‘contratti di rete’) in the service sector.
Practices that have the potential for transfer
Many of the above actions in the systematic approach of Emilia-Romagna could also be valuable to other regions including the use of:
 The idea that is behind the ‘contratti di rete’ is to enable smaller companies to acquire know-how and to access larger business opportunities through cooperation with other, complementary providers.