The year 2016 was undoubtedly turbulent and challenging for many of us. Here at the Italian Ministry for Economic Development was no exception.
The institution where for the past five years I have had the privilege to put my passion for innovation policies into practice saw two changes in minister and one change in government within a short period of just two months.
Despite the stormy times, the policy package that I helped design in late 2012, the “Italian Startup Act," is still up and running, faster than ever. The legislative framework in support of Italian innovative entrepreneurship strengthened significantly in 2016, and the results are starting to become visible. While more detailed information on the Startup Italy legislative package is available on the Startup Nations Atlas of Policies, here is a summary of the latest developments:
Release of the third edition of Annual Report on the Italian Startup Act
In March 2017, the Director General for Industrial Policy of the Ministry, Stefano Firpo, presented the third edition (2016) of the Annual Report. The release of the Annual Report was a great occasion for us to pause for a moment and reflect on the developments in the Italian startup ecosystem over the past year and a half. The final product, which is also available in English (Annual Report 2016), is the result of a remarkable coordination effort between our office and more than 20 institutional players.
The Report is particularly interesting for two main reasons: on one hand, it offers a great starting point to discover what has been done to support innovative startups and SMEs in the last few years; on the other, it also represents an exhaustive data resource on over 7,000 Italian innovative startups.
Disruptive Policy Tools
Among the most relevant innovations documented in the Annual Report, of particular interest is the new incorporation procedure for innovative startups: since July 2016, Italian innovative startups can draw up their first statutory acts entirely online and free-of-charge. This disruptive normative innovation – a wholly justified adjective, given the fierce corporatist resistance we have met – has already resulted in more than 180 new companies being set up with the new procedure between August and December 2016 (see report in Italian).
Another measure I am especially proud of, because of its intercultural vocation and its forward-looking approach, is the Italia Startup Visa programme. This is the fast-track process through which innovative entrepreneurs who intend to set up an innovative startup in Italy can get a self-employment visa. During 2016, ISV received a record-breaking 99 applications, more than twice the grand total of the previous two years; the pace has been even faster in early 2017, as we are rapidly approaching 200 applications (report in English).
In many respects, 2017 is and will be as demanding as last year. The Budget Law for 2017 has enshrined several new policies in law to support innovative entrepreneurship and to bolster the attraction of foreign investment. Many of these measures adopt the policy guidelines of Italy’s new national plan for digitised manufacturing, “Industria 4.0” (presentation in English). Others are entirely new, such as a project I will be working on a lot in the next few months: a new two-year “investor visa” to reward non-EU citizens who invest substantial amounts in the strategic assets of our country, such as government bonds, startups and SMEs, and cultural heritage.
If you want to know about the work our government is doing to strengthen the Italian ecosystem ecosystem, just contact me via GEN Connect, or request an introduction via the GEN Global team.