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The Italy that is still standing thanks to the factories and the choices necessary for innovation and work

“Italy is still standing also and above all thanks to the factories”. This is the clear, direct opinion of Salvatore Rossi, former general director of the Bank of Italy and chairman of Tim, who has lived his life first as a civil servant and then with a responsibility as head of one of the largest Italian companies, which has proved just as challenging. In a conversation with Paolo Bricco published in Il Sole24Ore (26 May) Rossi analyses the country’s long transition during the period from the end of the twentieth century to the 2000s. He recalls the difficulties of consolidating our public finances to join the euro area and the bumpy road of privatizations (“Those of Eni, Enel and what was then Finmeccanica worked, but Telecom’s, with its ‘bull in a china shop’ Gianni Agnelli, did not and would later fall through with the takeover bid organised by Emilio Gnutti and supported by Roberto Colaninno, leaving a huge bank debt to be offloaded on the company”). He recognises the merit of the entrepreneurs who reacted to the Great International Financial Crisis of 2008/2009 by investing, innovating and aiming to conquer international markets (“They were skilled and quick and, although they were in no way bound to do so, they took that crisis by the horns, they risked the life of their companies”). And, having dismissed “the rhetoric of ‘small is beautiful’ which I have never subscribed to”, he looks at current events and maintains: “The absence of big business is certainly a structural problem, because it is not only an incubator of innovation, but also a synthesizer of systemic complexities”. Here, in Italy, today “the phenomenon of the internationalised medium-sized enterprise is of great interpretative and substantial interest”. A lever of economic development, also thanks to the strength of an export trade worth over 650 billion. But also of innovation and social cohesion. “The Italy that is still standing thanks to the factories”, in fact. A precious social capital.

A capital to be strengthened, of course. With far-sighted industrial policy choices, in a European key. And with fiscal levers that, as already occurred with the laws of “Industry 4.0”, stimulate private investments. Quite the opposite of the controversial “110% bonus” for building renovations. But automatically and objectively in the name of the reward for those who, by investing, innovate and contribute to the growth of the GDP and an increase in exports. A common thread that links productivity and competitiveness, work and widespread well-being.

Italy and the other large EU countries are essentially manufacturers and processers. And their industry, today, risks being put into crisis, in terms of international competitiveness, due to the shortage of strategic raw materials, but also due to a strong dependence on US and Chinese technologies for the developments of Artificial Intelligence. This is why it is essential to urge the EU and national governments to make political choices to address the problem. A key issue, which should be discussed in depth during this electoral campaign for the renewal of the European Parliament and therefore for the composition of the new Brussels Commission (however the debate, is unfortunately excessively dominated by matters concerning national internal policies). And one for which in any case, Europe will have to take responsibility, when the votes have been cast.

In terms of choices. And resources.

There is a strong relationship, in fact, between economic policy and European defence and security policy, in the new geopolitical context. And there are commitments to be made in terms of investments, for energy, defence, scientific research and technological development and to continue to face the environmental and digital twin transition, without finding ourselves as onlookers in the face of the massive strategic investments made by USA and China. From 600 to 1,000 billion per year for the next ten years, according to increasingly clear calculations in the Brussels offices. Huge resources. To be recovered by strengthening the common EU budget. And to be obtained on the international financial markets, with Eurobonds.

Industrial policy must be seen in this context. The business organisations in Italy, France and Germany have been repeating this in agreement for some time and it was also reiterated during the recent B7.

“So far, Europe has been distracted, imposing ever more stringent constraints, such as the Green Deal, without taking into account that the manufacturing sector generates work and wealth”, notes Nicola Saldutti in Corriere della Sera (11 May), adding that “it takes time to reconfigure an industrial system” and therefore to give companies the political framework and the tools they need to cope with international competition.

EU industry must start again from science and innovation” was the headline of Il Sole24Ore (25 May) regarding the lively discussions on the future of Europe that took place during the recent Trento Economics Festival. Saldotto continues: “For our country, the second European manufacturing sector (a record that must be maintained, but is not automatic), our factories are precisely the main guarantee also for the public debt, due to their sustainability. Maybe the time has come to make some decisions. Not making them means losing”.

The fact that the measures envisaged by “Industry 5.0” to continue innovating the production system are at a standstill, without funding and concrete choices, rings a serious alarm bell that should not be underestimated. “The manufacturing system needs to be flexible, resilient and digital. And sustainability is no longer just a focus on the environment, instead the human component also counts” (Il Sole24Ore, 17 May).

To continue thinking about factories as a lever for development but also for social sustainability, the function of our medium and medium-large companies, of the so-called “pocket multinationals”, of those excellences in innovation and exports that Rossi talks about, comes back to the foreground. . As does that of our production chains, along which small businesses can also be brought together.

To support this system, in the face of the ongoing technological challenge, including applications of Artificial Intelligence, a collaborative diffusion of the knowledge available is also a must. This must pass through the supply chain relationships, and feature technological skills that are continuously updated. Fiscal leverage is fundamental, to strengthen the process.

In short, it is crucial that all the subjects in the field collaborate: “Efficient public administration, an open and collaborative business system and international-level research to trigger an attractive virtuous circle, involving businesses, universities and public and private research centres”, claims Ferruccio Resta, former rector of the Polytechnic of Milan and president of the Kessler Foundation (Il Sole24Ore, 25 May).

This is the real concept of ​​Made in Italy that we need to develop. Innovation, productivity, global competitiveness, environmental but above all social and economic sustainability. Italian industry, which has long had a European scope (mechanics, mechatronics, robotics, automotive and aerospace, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, rubber, shipbuilding as well as the traditional worlds of clothing, furniture and agro-industry) is moving precisely in this direction. It is up to politics to play its part effectively in the interest of the country system.

(Photo Getty Images)

“Italy is still standing also and above all thanks to the factories”. This is the clear, direct opinion of Salvatore Rossi, former general director of the Bank of Italy and chairman of Tim, who has lived his life first as a civil servant and then with a responsibility as head of one of the largest Italian companies, which has proved just as challenging. In a conversation with Paolo Bricco published in Il Sole24Ore (26 May) Rossi analyses the country’s long transition during the period from the end of the twentieth century to the 2000s. He recalls the difficulties of consolidating our public finances to join the euro area and the bumpy road of privatizations (“Those of Eni, Enel and what was then Finmeccanica worked, but Telecom’s, with its ‘bull in a china shop’ Gianni Agnelli, did not and would later fall through with the takeover bid organised by Emilio Gnutti and supported by Roberto Colaninno, leaving a huge bank debt to be offloaded on the company”). He recognises the merit of the entrepreneurs who reacted to the Great International Financial Crisis of 2008/2009 by investing, innovating and aiming to conquer international markets (“They were skilled and quick and, although they were in no way bound to do so, they took that crisis by the horns, they risked the life of their companies”). And, having dismissed “the rhetoric of ‘small is beautiful’ which I have never subscribed to”, he looks at current events and maintains: “The absence of big business is certainly a structural problem, because it is not only an incubator of innovation, but also a synthesizer of systemic complexities”. Here, in Italy, today “the phenomenon of the internationalised medium-sized enterprise is of great interpretative and substantial interest”. A lever of economic development, also thanks to the strength of an export trade worth over 650 billion. But also of innovation and social cohesion. “The Italy that is still standing thanks to the factories”, in fact. A precious social capital.

A capital to be strengthened, of course. With far-sighted industrial policy choices, in a European key. And with fiscal levers that, as already occurred with the laws of “Industry 4.0”, stimulate private investments. Quite the opposite of the controversial “110% bonus” for building renovations. But automatically and objectively in the name of the reward for those who, by investing, innovate and contribute to the growth of the GDP and an increase in exports. A common thread that links productivity and competitiveness, work and widespread well-being.

Italy and the other large EU countries are essentially manufacturers and processers. And their industry, today, risks being put into crisis, in terms of international competitiveness, due to the shortage of strategic raw materials, but also due to a strong dependence on US and Chinese technologies for the developments of Artificial Intelligence. This is why it is essential to urge the EU and national governments to make political choices to address the problem. A key issue, which should be discussed in depth during this electoral campaign for the renewal of the European Parliament and therefore for the composition of the new Brussels Commission (however the debate, is unfortunately excessively dominated by matters concerning national internal policies). And one for which in any case, Europe will have to take responsibility, when the votes have been cast.

In terms of choices. And resources.

There is a strong relationship, in fact, between economic policy and European defence and security policy, in the new geopolitical context. And there are commitments to be made in terms of investments, for energy, defence, scientific research and technological development and to continue to face the environmental and digital twin transition, without finding ourselves as onlookers in the face of the massive strategic investments made by USA and China. From 600 to 1,000 billion per year for the next ten years, according to increasingly clear calculations in the Brussels offices. Huge resources. To be recovered by strengthening the common EU budget. And to be obtained on the international financial markets, with Eurobonds.

Industrial policy must be seen in this context. The business organisations in Italy, France and Germany have been repeating this in agreement for some time and it was also reiterated during the recent B7.

“So far, Europe has been distracted, imposing ever more stringent constraints, such as the Green Deal, without taking into account that the manufacturing sector generates work and wealth”, notes Nicola Saldutti in Corriere della Sera (11 May), adding that “it takes time to reconfigure an industrial system” and therefore to give companies the political framework and the tools they need to cope with international competition.

EU industry must start again from science and innovation” was the headline of Il Sole24Ore (25 May) regarding the lively discussions on the future of Europe that took place during the recent Trento Economics Festival. Saldotto continues: “For our country, the second European manufacturing sector (a record that must be maintained, but is not automatic), our factories are precisely the main guarantee also for the public debt, due to their sustainability. Maybe the time has come to make some decisions. Not making them means losing”.

The fact that the measures envisaged by “Industry 5.0” to continue innovating the production system are at a standstill, without funding and concrete choices, rings a serious alarm bell that should not be underestimated. “The manufacturing system needs to be flexible, resilient and digital. And sustainability is no longer just a focus on the environment, instead the human component also counts” (Il Sole24Ore, 17 May).

To continue thinking about factories as a lever for development but also for social sustainability, the function of our medium and medium-large companies, of the so-called “pocket multinationals”, of those excellences in innovation and exports that Rossi talks about, comes back to the foreground. . As does that of our production chains, along which small businesses can also be brought together.

To support this system, in the face of the ongoing technological challenge, including applications of Artificial Intelligence, a collaborative diffusion of the knowledge available is also a must. This must pass through the supply chain relationships, and feature technological skills that are continuously updated. Fiscal leverage is fundamental, to strengthen the process.

In short, it is crucial that all the subjects in the field collaborate: “Efficient public administration, an open and collaborative business system and international-level research to trigger an attractive virtuous circle, involving businesses, universities and public and private research centres”, claims Ferruccio Resta, former rector of the Polytechnic of Milan and president of the Kessler Foundation (Il Sole24Ore, 25 May).

This is the real concept of ​​Made in Italy that we need to develop. Innovation, productivity, global competitiveness, environmental but above all social and economic sustainability. Italian industry, which has long had a European scope (mechanics, mechatronics, robotics, automotive and aerospace, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, rubber, shipbuilding as well as the traditional worlds of clothing, furniture and agro-industry) is moving precisely in this direction. It is up to politics to play its part effectively in the interest of the country system.

(Photo Getty Images)