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Business culture and innovation in Southern Italy

The business landscape in the South of Italy offers many examples of innovative companies that are shattering its stereotype as a stagnant and backwards region

 

Lots of problems, but also lots of energy and skill. A productive culture that, in spite of everything, remains vigorous, dynamic and strong. To understand the nature and state of an industrial system, it’s important to carefully analyse the state of businesses in those areas which it would appear are struggling the most. That is precisely the case in the South of Italy, which is painted in detail in a recent study by Salvio Capasso and Autilia Cozzolino of Studi e Ricerche per il Mezzogiorno (SRM), a centre in Naples for research into the region.

The resulting paper, titled ‘Il ruolo delle filiere produttive meridionali: verso una nuova cultura d’impresa’ (‘the role of Southern production chains: towards a new business culture’), was presented during the Italian Association of Regional Science’s 40th conference. Needless to say, it begins by acknowledging that the Southern economy remains far behind the rest of the country. A number of problems are slowing down its return to pre-crisis levels, and thereby widening the gap with other areas of the country. But below the surface, despite the structural and historical weaknesses of the Southern industrial system, and despite the glaring drop in domestic demand, with its repercussions on productivity, there is a not inconsequential nucleus of dynamic, successful companies. These are highly innovative, research-oriented and committed to internationalisation. They know how to make good use of training and eco-friendly production techniques. ‘These,’ the authors explain, ‘are all crucial to riding the wave of the fourth industrial revolution.’

Capasso and Cozzolino do not merely examine the general conditions of Southern Italy’s economy, but also examples that depart from the widely-held stereotypes of the region. In doing so, the two researchers take into consideration virtually all relevant indicators, ultimately concluding that: ‘The South’s business landscape is varied. Indeed, there are innovative and competitive productive enterprises that paint a very different picture of the South from the mostly negative one often drawn from statistical averages’. And again: ‘Companies of excellence, that is to say ones with widespread and integrated operations, are relatively rare in the South, but there are numerous entities that are fully invested in dynamic operations, especially in the areas of research and innovation. In many cases, these operations are still fragile and not yet integrated, and adopting strategies for them is fraught with interruptions, but they nevertheless represent a first step toward a comprehensive development effort, and as such they are interesting elements which could potentially benefit from targeted policies and measures.’

Capasso and Cozzolino’s work outlines a Southern Italian business culture that may come as a surprise to many, but which is in fact firmly rooted in the area’s economic fabric, albeit on a limited scale.

 

Il ruolo delle filiere produttive meridionali: verso una nuova cultura d’impresa
Salvio Capasso, Autilia Cozzolino (SRM – Studi e Ricerche per il Mezzogiorno, Napoli)
40th conference of the Italian Association of Regional Science

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