Invitalia is betting on southern Italy, a historically disadvantaged area with poorly developed infrastructure and industrial operations, to spearhead the economic renaissance of the boot-shaped peninsula.
With a particular focus on the southern regions of Italy known as Mezzogiorno, as well as on technology and young and female entrepreneurs, the government’s investment agency Invitalia functions as a major catalyst for growth, as the country makes a bold move to exit years of stagnation and economic crisis.
Invitalia supports the creation and growth of innovative start-ups all over the country, as well as serving as a reliable partner for foreign investors wishing to set up or expand their business in Italy.
The agency’s Smart&Start program, which focuses on the establishment of new digital businesses, has a total budget of around €200 million and funds projects costing up to €1.5 million. Non-repayable grants amounting to 20% of the value of business loans are available to start-ups based in the southern regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily and the ‘seismic crater’ of Aquila.
Furthermore, for all start-ups that are less than one year old, Invitalia offers technical and management support services.
To revitalize industrial areas hit by the economic crisis and strengthen existing companies through incentives, restructuring projects and innovation support is another aspect of Invitalia’s mission.
“Italy is design, creativity and lifestyle,” notes Mr Arcuri, “but there obviously are other aspects too. We possess unique brands that are globally scalable. The Italian quality is so difficult to find elsewhere, and we are leading niche players, with proprietary technologies and know-how that is not replicable.”
To highlight and put to profitable use the assets the country already possesses has long been an objective that Invitalia is finally meeting. The agency is in fact working with both national institutions and local authorities with the aim of restoring competitiveness in strategic sectors and territories, especially in the south of Italy.
“Tourism is another great opportunity,” remarks Mr Arcuri. “In 2015 almost half of Italian tourists chose the south of Italy for their summer holidays, and the presence of international tourists increased to record-high levels.”
Through its Development Contracts – agreements between the Ministry of Economic Development, Invitalia and at least one other company implementing development projects – Invitalia supports large investments in the industrial sector, tourism and environmental protection. Thanks to this program, more than 50 initiatives have been funded, around 40% coming from foreign companies, €1.82 billion of investment generated, and 29,000 jobs created.
More investments are being proposed. “We are currently analyzing 123 proposals in Mezzogiorno for a total investment of over €4.2 billion,” says Mr Arcuri. “Business is making a return to southern Italy.”
“A number of large multinational corporations have invested in southern Italy in the past and are currently expanding production capacity,” says Mr Arcuri. “Avionics, mechatronics, pharma, automotive, and energy are all examples of sectors in which foreign investors are present in Mezzogiorno.”
By attracting foreign investors and developing the local business talent, Invitalia is playing a vital role in the recovery of the Italian economy, which, in Mr Arcuri’s words, is “able again to compete globally thanks to venture capital, innovation and entrepreneurship.”