European industry needs an environment conducive to innovative activity. We must strengthen investment in innovation and foster business dynamism. Investment is needed not only in scientific R&D but also in areas that are becoming key features of corporate success, such as design, software, data, firm-specific skills and marketing. These are some of the ideas that emerged from the conference on the Reindustrialisation of Europe: Food Manufacturing, Innovation and Circular Economy, which took place on 27 October in Milan. The event was hosted by the Employers' Group, together with Coldiretti and Confindustria.
Giorgio Gori, the Mayor of Bergamo, explained how his city had been able to overcome the crisis through innovative production processes and increased exports. He emphasised that innovation was essential to make Italian industries more competitive and called on business representatives to make sure that Industry 4.0 created job opportunities, especially for young people. He underlined that EXPO had been the perfect opportunity for the public and private sectors and agrifood industries to work together.
Guido Venturini, Director General of Confindustria Bergamo, stated that in the light of the financial crisis, it was important to understand why some regions were still growing and to seize the potential for business in those countries. He explained that in order to understand reindustrialisation, it was important to take into account aspects such as immigration and women's entrepreneurship. He presented Bergamo as a city able to invest in foreign markets and which exceeded the EU average in terms of innovative manufacturing. Lastly, Mr Venturini emphasised the challenges of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and underlined the need to harmonise EU Member States' approaches to these challenges.
Innovative agriculture: examples from Italy
The participants in the first panel session looked at how innovation can benefit Europe's agricultural and agribusiness sectors.Paolo Zanetti, Vice-President of Federalimentare and Vice-President of the Confindustria National Food Group, presented practical examples of innovation in the Italian food and drinks industry that were helping it become more competitive and energy-efficient. He emphasised that this sector still faces numerous challenges such as fragmentation, high logistical costs, low export growth in comparison to competitors and the issue of counterfeiting and imitation.
Maria Letizia Gardoni, National Delegate, Coldiretti Young Entrepreneurs, described how innovation in agriculture could bring opportunities and employment to the countryside. She spoke about the Green Oscars competition, launched 10 years ago for young entrepreneurs in agriculture. The aim of the competition is to renew the sector, make mind-sets more innovative and prove that agriculture too can be reinterpreted in the light of modern development opportunities. Ms Gardoni stated that Italian agriculture could be regarded as the most sustainable in Europe.
Every year we consume 1.5 times more resources than the planet can regenerate, according to Filippo Servalli, Marketing Director at the Radici Group, whose presentation focussed on sustainable development and the circular economy. He described the business model that makes it possible to shift from a linear economy to a circular economy. Lastly, he added that while more innovation is needed, it is equally important to adopt a holistic approach that includes sustainable development, decent work for all and respect for human rights.
Industry 4.0 – Towards a Sustainable Industrial Policy in the EU
The participants in the second panel session focussed on Industry 4.0 and its implications for the European economy. The digitisation of industry offers huge potential, for example, in terms of automatisation, processing technologies, increased productivity and flexibility, as well as greater competitiveness. Digitisation offers industry savings in energy and in the cost of raw materials. The Employers' Group is convinced that fully harnessing the potential of the Internet of Things provides a unique opportunity for the EU to forge ahead in terms of global competitiveness.
Fabrizio Spada, Head of the Regional Office of the European Commission in Milan, stated that innovation was the best tool to fight the crisis and to offset high production costs. In his view, Italy still needed to seize the full potential of the digital revolution. He described the various initiatives put in place by the Commission to revitalise industry, such as the EU2020 programme, the European funds for innovation, the Structural Funds and the Juncker Plan.
Gianluca Viscardi, CEO of Cosberg Innovation, claimed that current developments would lead to a revolution in factories. He underlined that big data has created numerous new opportunities for business. Industry 4.0 is an advanced manufacturing model that addresses the market's needs to produce tailor-made products and components while being able to achieve benefits of scale regarding costs. He regretted that Italy is lagging behind the leading EU countries in terms of infrastructure.
Leonardo Marabini presented the project of Kilometro Rosso Industrial Park. Established in 2003, this is a 100% privately-owned science park that focusses on the multi-sector integration of knowledge and expertise in order to capitalise on the results of the R&D work taking place in the park. The park promotes radical innovation and product innovation with a view to attracting increasing numbers of hi-tech businesses.