European Commission - Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

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Innovation policy in Lombardy - a top manufacturing region in Europe


Overview of innovation policies

Over the last 10 years, Regione Lombardia has stimulated Research and Innovation by promoting scientific and technology based processes. A “district-based” policy, built around 16 geographically localized industrial clusters, was one of the pillars of this approach. In the last years the regional intervention moved ahead going from 10 “High Technology Districts” to 9 “Regional Technology Clusters”, development poles with high technology potential linked to the knowledge and industrial assets of the region (agri-food, aerospace, life science, living environments, smart communities, mobility, green chemistry, energy, environment, construction, smart factory).

In the new programming period 2014-2020 the intervention framework focuses on 7 Specialisation Areas (aerospace, agri-food, eco-industry, creative and cultural industries, health industry, advanced manufacturing, sustainable mobility) to consolidate the leadership of the key regional actors in their respective markets/fields. Manufacturing will be the priority for innovation policies . Supporting such industries will induce positive fall-outs in the advanced service industry .

As far as services are concerned, the cultural industry in the region ranks third in Europe, after Ile-de-France and Inner London. Lombardy is second in Europe in artistic and literary production and third in publishing . There are 68.632 business with 204 594 employees. In the new RIS3, creative and cultural industries are envisaged to be one of the promising source for emerging industries and start-ups with a key role played by the Metropolitan area of Milan. The Municipality of Milan has launched important actions to support creative industries and social innovation including an incubator for social innovation (that integrates facilities and financial support for start-ups, the “Incubatore Moda” – a space for young fashion designers managed in co-operation with the National Chamber for Fashion and a network of 40 co-working locations where infrastructure, coaching and vouchers are made available to young talents.

Regione Lombardia has a sound monitoring and evaluation mechanism for its research and innovation policies. The Regional Government is responsible for the yearly evaluation of all the activities related to RDI. In 2013, 390 companies and 27 research bodies benefitted from the ERDF support (66% of the companies from industrial sectors, 32% from services). Among the 175 companies interviewed in the evaluation process 88% introduced an innovation, in 50% of the cases R&D activities led to products/services not yet available on the market. All companies declared that incentives produced a positive impact, thanks to the implementation of R&D&I projects 26% of the sample declared that they could access to new markets, for 13% there was an impact on turnover.

In 2013 the Regione took a set of actions to reinforce the participation of stakeholders in the decision-making mechanism and to strengthen the bottom up approach. In addition to this, an “outward looking action” based on dialogue with Italian and foreign regions was started in order to raise Lombardy’s profile in the national and EU context.

The new Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) defines 2 sets of interventions to facilitate knowledge transfer and cooperation across sectors and industrial value chains, also in the view of better exploiting market opportunities offered by emerging industries and transformation of mature industry: i) “enabling environment” to strengthen the regional ecosystems (macro projects, open innovation platforms, regional technology clusters) and; ii) interventions aimed at companies and research system (pilot plants, pre-commercial public procurement, business creation and purchase of advanced services, ad hoc financial instruments). Priority intervention areas have been selected according to regional assets (Expertise Systems), moving away from the vertical approach, by traditional sectors, used in the past. RIS3 will also exploit synergies between ESIF, H2020 and National funds on 3 levels: i) Governance, to improve coordination and integration of regional players sharing knowledge, co-designing and testing innovations; ii) Groundwork to H2020, to enlarge and qualify participation of regional actors; iii) Impact from H2020, to increase the fall out of the participation in H2020 to the regional economy.

Governance of the regional innovation system

Lombardy is characterised by a rich and articulated ecosystem (only looking at universities there are 12 academic institutions and a university school for advanced studies). This has led to the challenges of implementing a true bottom up approach and coordinating different interventions and institutional actors within and outside the region.

Regional stakeholders have been involved at different levels through the “Pact for Development”, by animating working groups on regional clusters, and expert groups to integrate and consolidate the “entrepreneurial process of discovery”. A consultation process was opened up to the general public to involve all the regional actors in the context of the “quadruple helix model (industry, academia, institution and civil society).

Since the past programming period 2007/2013 the Region organised the governance set up with the “Central Coordination and Programming Authority” (ACCP), a regional body responsible for the coordination of regional policies both with the different regional directorates and the national and European levels.

Recent developments of measures and initiatives in support of Advanced Manufacturing

Lombardy is the top manufacturing region in Italy in terms of turnover and added value and the third in Europe for number of employees (after Bayern and Baden-Württemberg). It has a specific competitive advantage in sub-industries such as: manufacturing of metal products (excluding machinery and equipment; textile industries); production of base metals; manufacture of wearing apparel; printing and reproduction of recorded media; wood and products of wood and cork, except furniture.

The public research system consists of CNR (ITIA - Institute of Industrial Technologies and Automation), Politecnico of Milan, University of Milan, Bicocca University in Milan, University of Brescia, University of Bergamo, University of Pavia, Insubria University. The research and technology transfer environment can count on 208 research and technology transfer centres. Since 2003, 50 university spin-offs have been created (Netval, 2003-2013). Based on its assets, the regional ecosystem is able to support developments of all the key enabling technologies identified by the European Manufacturing Roadmap. Lombardy is also the first Italian region by number of patents registered at the European Patent Office (EPO) concerning manufacturing technologies (industrial technologies, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, chemicals, textiles).

The RIS3 for Lombardy highlights the importance of Advanced Manufacturing, one of the 7 specialization areas identified by the strategy, in the transformation process towards emerging industries and the role that the existing “Smart Factory” and “Smart communities” clusters, supported in the past, will play in the new programming period.