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There's no Digital Transformation without innovation

Innovation's role is now strategic also in Italian companies, says a new report by Politecnico di Milano


Innovation is more and more the key to Digital Transformation, for Italian companies, and has been getting a proper strategic role, at least in big enterprises. "Within large enterprises, innovation is becoming increasingly recognized, even at the organizational level," explains Mariano Corso, Scientific Director of the Digital Transformation Academy Observatory, Politecnico di Milano.

"Cases in which innovation activities are unstructured and managed on an as-needed basis are now rare, while the number of companies that decide to define an Innovation Direction, or at least a coordination role dedicated to innovation management, is increasing", Corso says. Increasingly, moreover, this function reports directly to top management, to better align the strategic direction of the company with innovation activities.

More precisely, 41% of Italian companies have now an Innovation Office (or Officer) and more than 50% already defined one or more Innovation Champions. 31% manage innovation on a per-project basis, 9% have an inter-fuctional innovation board. Italian SMEs aren't so evolved, yet: just 8% have a specific role for digital innovation. Which is often (13%) managed by consulting third parties.

Involving third parties is not a bad sign, per se. Even big enterprises know that they can't do everything by themselves: 83% adopt some forms of open innovation and 45% have a specific budget for it. Widely adopted open innovation practices are collaborating with Universities and Research Centers (cited by 67% of Italian enterprises), startup scouting (52%), tech companies scouting (46%), Call4ideas or Call4startup (37%), hackathons (36%).

There are already stable relations between Italian enterprises and the local startup ecosystem. 52% of large companies already actively collaborate with startups, while 24% plan to do so in the future. Instead, there is just a small percentage (8%) of big companies investing in startup equity through Corporate Venture Capital funds.

"Startups have proved over the past few years, and particularly during the pandemic period, a strong capacity for resilience and immediate response to change", says Stefano Mainetti, Scientific Director of the Startup Intelligence Observatory, Politecnico di Milano. That's also why Italian enterprises, and the most forward-looking SMEs, are now able to engage in virtuous collaborations with startups.

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