The manufacturing sector is a basic pillar of contemporary economies. It allows to produce wealth and employment fostering strong industrial competences and generating research and innovation activities characterized by a high added value.

The Italian manufacturing sector produces a turnover of 871 billion euro and a value added of 206 billion euro. It is composed of 427 thousand companies that employ 4 million operators (Eurostat 2010). it is estimated that each job in the direct production activities creates about two supplementary jobs in the related manufacturing service sector (European Parliament, 2010).

For this reason, all countries interested in playing a leading role on the international scene and aiming at industrial independence have to invest in this sector. To accomplish this goal each country should address strategically its manufacturing activities according to its own resources and to the competitive dynamics which determine the international context.
The current international context is characterized by the growth of emerging economies, mostly Asiatic, which are able to offer products characterized by an increasing quality at a lower price compared to the one realized by mature economies. This is made possible by low labour costs, worse working conditions, by the availability of raw materials and by fewer environmental safety and IPRs regulations. Mature economies are therefore focusing their offer more and more on innovative technologies, personalized solutions, high added-value manufacturing, integrated product-process-system solutions.
Visione If we embrace a broader vision aiming at keeping in Europe the production for strategic sectors, cost will always be an important competitive factor. However, it should be considered under a wider perspective, including not only labour and raw material costs, but rather the overall cost related to manufacturing. For instance, it becomes fundamental to consider costs related to know-how and design, and to lever on factors as automation which allow a broader independence from labour costs. According to this perspective, it is possible to imagine a future in which the global organization of manufacturing will be characterized by the existence of different productive and technological poles. Each of them will represent the excellence for the manufacturing of specific products targeting selected markets, thanks to the presence of specific “environmental” conditions. These conditions are determined by a set of heterogeneous factors which, as previously underlined, cannot be identified exclusively with labour costs. They are for example:

  • industrial tradition and manufacturing culture;
  • the presence of specific networks of companies and industrial districts;
  • the presence of Universities, research institutes and technological transfer centres;
  • strong relations between Industry and research institutions;
  • image and reputation of the players and of the country/region;
  • territorial organization and infrastructures;
  • cultural, economic and social conditions able to attract and maintain qualified personnel.

Since these characteristics are tightly related to the environmental context, they are less subject to delocalisation and substitutability logics compared to the ones solely related to costs. Within this vision each country will have to strategically choose its specialisation in terms of industrial sectors and applications, in order to establish its leadership according to the available resources. These areas of excellence not only will allow to stand international competition but will also give a contribution in addressing societal challenges like the ones identified by the European Union: climate change, availability of resources, health and population ageing. Indeed, the solution of these challenges will necessarily require the realization of new technologies, new products, new manufacturing systems.

For what concerns Italy, its national industrial vocation and culture, the high professional background of its workforce, the ability to realize products combining design, technology, personalization and the great tradition in the machine tools and automation sector (Italy is the second European producer of machine tools) both, in terms of industry and research, represent optimal and not easily replicable environmental conditions. It is thanks to these conditions that our country can constitute a reference point in the design, realization and management of factories, technologies and competitive products.

Italy is a country with a deep vocation for manufacturing. In 2011 Italy was the world’s fifth most industrialized country in terms of per capita manufacturing production, following Korea, Germany, Japan and United States (Figure 1).

Produzione manifatturiera per abitante

Manufacturing is the first sector of non-financial European economy. In Italy, it contributed in 2010 to the total added value produced by non-financial business economy with a share of 31% (source Eurostat).

Turnover, added value and exports in 2010 for the Italian manufacturing sectors are represented in Figure 2. The first sector in terms of both turnover and added value is mechanics, followed by machine tools, chemical-pharmaceutical and rubber-plastics industries, foods and textile and clothing industry. “Made in Italy” sectors are traditionally represented by Automation and Machinery, Food, Clothing and Textiles, Furniture and Wood. (Source: Fondazione Edison, 2009).

Fatturato, valore aggiunto ed export per settore

The machinery sector comes first in the ranking of Italian export, followed by the chemical-pharmaceutical-rubber-and-plastics industry, the textile and clothing industry and the food sector. In terms of destination countries, Italian exports are mostly directed to non-European countries (source: Confindustria 2011). The index measuring diversification of Italian exports is the one which has mostly increased in the last few years compared to other European countries: this is a clear indicator of the excellence characterizing Italian products. The more destination countries and the larger export quotas are, the more this index increases.

Diversificazione geografica dell'export

For each country, research is crucial to address its societal challenges and to successfully follow the innovation path leading to the valorization of the sectors where the country can best express its potential. Therefore, considering the Italian and European manufacturing sector the following research and innovation priorities seem to be fundamental:

  • a new systemic perspective on manufacturing, which considers the co-evolution of products processes and systems;
  • new cutting edge technologies and processes to achieve high performance manufacturing (high quality and productivity);
  • new advanced manufacturing systems supply chains and business models adaptive and highly integrated, to foster economic sustainability in the various manufacturing sectors in continuous evolution;
  • new manufacturing technologies and systems to realize new products for the societal challenges;
  • new technologies and solutions to valorize the central role of people and their unique competences;
  • new approaches to guarantee a continuous improvement and innovation of the competences of the manufacturing;
  • new technologies and solutions for the environmental sustainability of factories, which must use planet resources efficiently within a new manufacturing/de-manufacturing paradigm;
  • new ways to effectively and efficiently integrate research and innovation.

In order to drive the change toward the most relevant priorities, it is necessary to lead strategically the research and innovation carried out by universities, research institutions, companies and other innovation actors in order to address them towards innovation goals and policies in an efficient and synergic way. It becomes therefore important for the research and industrial actors, as experts in frontier innovation and technologies, to take an active part in the roadmapping activities and in the definition of the research policies. Indeed, the priority of research in the manufacturing sector is among the primary and specific goals of Horizon 2020, in which the aim of significantly enhancing European industrial competitiveness is clearly stated. Within this framework, a reference initiative is the European Association for the Factories of the Future (EFFRA), a private association which stems from the ManuFuturePlatform, and which is composed by companies, research centres and associations in the area of manufacturing, with the goal of engaging in a contractual Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the EU on the topic “Factories of the Future”. Another important endeavour within Horizon2020 is related to the “Key Enabling Technologies” with particular reference to the one that deals with “Advanced Manufacturing Systems
At national level the “Cluster Intelligent Factories” promoted by MIUR will represent an important pivot for the national research programmes in the area of manufacturing within “Horizon 2020 Italy”. In coordination with this initiative, always at national level, the Flagship Umbrella Project “Fabbrica del Futuro” aims at promoting scientific and technological research in order to strengthen the Italian manufacturing sector. Similarly, at regional level, various initiatives are arising in order to define and implement strong policies on manufacturing, notably the one promoted by Regione Lombardia on the “Cluster Intelligent Factories - Lombardy”. According to the vision expressed above, STIIMA believes that research and innovation on the factories and related enabling technologies should be the driving force of the Italianand European manufacturing sector. Coherently, STIIMA is playing an active and reference role in all the national and international initiatives listed above.

Diversificazione geografica dell'export