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InnovationOpenLab

Digital innovation is in the DNA of Italian companies

More and more large and small businesses are adopting paths and methodologies fostering digital innovation, opening up to the world of startups

Companies Startups

Has technological innovation, especially digital innovation, truly become ingrained in the DNA of Italian businesses? Looking at investment forecasts, it would seem largely so. The challenge with digital innovation is that it needs to be led within the company and then implemented across the board, requiring specific roles and often a modification in the organizational structure.

According to recent data published by the School of Management at the Politecnico di Milano, 41% of large Italian companies have formalized an Innovation Department. 51% have defined roles as Innovation Champions, acting as a bridge between innovation and business. 74% have taken specific actions in Corporate Entrepreneurship to foster internal entrepreneurial approaches.

Working on the growth of internal resources is now essential because among the obstacles that digital innovation faces in companies, there is a significant lack of adequate internal digital skills (cited by 47% of large companies) and difficulty in attracting them externally (34%).

A positive consequence on the job market is that internal workforce are being requalified for the digital era rather than downsized. Only 14% of the sample examined by the School of Management indicated a reduction in staff due to increased process efficiency and automation. On the contrary, 24% mentioned an increase in staff due to the greater attractiveness and growth of their own company.



The right path? Open Innovation

Italian companies have realized that pursuing innovation alone is not the best path and have embraced the approach of Open Innovation. Today, 86% of large Italian companies resort to Open Innovation initiatives, and over half have a dedicated budget, although mostly (68% of cases) it is not autonomous but falls under funds generally dedicated to innovation.

Italian Open Innovation is still predominantly inbound (absorbing innovation opportunities from outside) and much less outbound (developing startups or spinoffs). What changes significantly is with which partners companies want to innovate. Companies are increasingly less inclined to collaborate with consulting firms and ICT vendors/sourcers, which will decrease from 25% to 18% and 24% to 14%, respectively, in the next three years.

Startups will be the main sources of innovation for Italian companies. Today, 58% of large companies and 11% of SMEs collaborate with startups for their innovation. If we also include those planning to do so, the percentages rise to 80% and 40%, respectively. The evolution of collaboration dynamics is also evident on the startup side: currently, 50-60% of them prefer to collaborate with universities, research centers, and other startups. However, in the next three years, large companies will be the primary partner (54% of mentions).

Certainly, the dialogue between established companies and startups always brings some misunderstandings. On the side of large companies, issues such as development and implementation times exceeding expectations and the complexity of aligning the company's goals with those of the startup are mentioned. On the startup side, there are concerns about communication problems. Nevertheless, the trend is solid: innovation and growth stem from mutual collaboration.

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