digital-factory

by Elio Catania, former Chairman of Digital Confindustria

In Italy in recent years there has been growing awareness of the fact that digital transformation actually means redesigning the entire Country and seizing the opportunities offered by innovation to overcome the structural and cultural backwardness that today are an obstacle to growth. The process of change is currently underway but it is rather heterogeneous across the various fragmented productive sectors. However, being the second manufacturing country in Europe, after Germany, and seventh in the world for the use of robotics, Italy is well placed to play a leading role in the new economic cycle.

The first findings show that the path Italy is on is the right one, with projects, plans and initiatives that are clearly conducive to the spreading of innovation. There are several signs that suggest a new era for the Country: the 2.3% increase in ICT investments in 2017 compared to the previous year, a trend that is expected to rise to 2.8% in 2018; a strong expansion of ultra-broadband telecommunications networks across the Country which is bringing us closer to the objectives set at the EU level. In the mobile TLC networks, in particular, Italy is among the leading countries in the EU, with 4G coverage that has now reached 98% of the population, while the government and private operators have started implementing the 5G standard in seven major cities.

The Government has put great emphasis on the development of national digital platforms for the Public Administration which now include: the National Register of Resident Population (ANPR): a new interoperable system that simplifies the interaction between public administrations; the Data & Analytics Framework (DAF): a centralized system for stimulating the exploitation of public data, dissemination of Open Data and facilitation of data analysis processes by administrations and companies; the system for managing electronic payments to the Public Administration (PagoPA) which interconnects all payment service providers; the Public Digital Identity System (SPID) which is a national authentication system whereby, through credentials classified on three levels of security, citizens can easily access services; and the Electronic Identity Card (CIE), issued on an IT medium by the municipal administrations, and equipped with appropriate elements to prove the identity of its owner.

The adoption of these systems by the various public administrations will greatly improve the quality and efficiency of public services for citizens and businesses.

And, last but not least, the Industry 4.0 Plan, with which a decisive step has been taken towards the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. The results for the 2017-2018 two-year period are encouraging. Investments in Industry 4.0 goods (IOT, sensors, connected machinery, advanced robotics, software for industrial machines) increased by 60% to over 3 billion euros. The manufacturing companies that have already started their digital transformation are about 16%, out of a total of 400 thousand businesses. In this regard, it is worth recalling that more than 90% of Italian production companies are small businesses, whose dimensional characteristics do not facilitate the development of those skills and visions required to pursue innovation on their own. For this reason, in its design, the Plan has taken into account the specific characteristics of the Italian manufacturing universe and is aimed at ensuring the evolution of entire industrial chains and business networks. Born from the close collaboration between public and private leadership, the Italian way to Industry 4.0 makes use of a formula that enhances transversal cooperation, managerial skills, design, and investment skills.

The next steps aim at widening the number of businesses involved and help them in a variety of ways: help them integrate the machines with the old and new production processes, through sensors, software and the network; help them find a synthesis between tradition, the Made in Italy know-how and digital innovation; help them develop projects in the area of artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity and of Open Innovation on which the new supply chain models can be based so as to transform the small dimension into a competitive advantage.

The network of 23 Digital Innovation Hubs located in various Italian regions, whose establishment was strongly supported by Confindustria, will act as a virtual platform enabling Italy’s small and medium-sized companies to gain access to growth factors which would otherwise be unreachable for them: new synergies, new skills, new financial and technological resources.

All these objectives were adopted by the Government which has built them into the 2019 Budget Act envisaging specific incentives for the digitalization of SMEs and tax credits for the training and digital requalification of workers.

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