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Imagining Best Practice 11 June Jun 2018 0830 11 June 2018

Can Italy become a start-up nation? Yes, if we learn from France

Investments are needed in businesses and talents, exactly like what is happening in France in recent years thanks to the work of Emmanuel Macron

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“Make Italy the next start-up nation”. This is the title of a document still available on the site of the Ministry of Economic Development dated 2012: it was to contain the guidelines for making Italy a so-called start-up nation, in other words a country that bases its development on a booming fabric of innovative companies.

Six years later we have to deal with a substantial delay in coming up to expectations, and yet in order to have a good model to follow it would not be necessary to go to Silicon Valley or Israel (perhaps the state that is best known for banking on start-ups).Instead all we need to do is have a look at what is happening in France. It is there that thanks also to the policies of Emmanuel Macron, now President of the Republic but until 2016 Minister for Economy, Industry and Digital, ​an ideal environment for the growth of new companies is being created.

In order to have a good model to follow it would not be necessary to go to Silicon Valley or Israel. ​Instead all we need to do is have a look at what is happening in France.

As early as the electoral campaign Macron had been clear, directly approaching American investors concerned about the election of Donald Trump: “Come to France, you are welcome, it is your country. We want innovative people, people who work on climate change, energy, renewable sources and new technologies”. The mantra was that of wanting to make France a “start-up nation”, a goal to pursue by giving incentives to new businesses, new rules for the labour market and a radical change in mentality.

A few examples? Macron has decided to invest ten billion euro in Bpifrance, the public investment bank which supports start-ups. Money that will go toward beefing up project started in 2011 which initially contributed about 300 million to companies per year and which now, after the 2.7 billion of 2016 and 9 billion in 2017, is supporting start-ups with tens of billions.

Macron has decided to invest ten billion euro in Bpifrance, the public investment bank which supports start-ups​..

There is more: have you ever heard of Tech Visa? This is a “passport for talents” by which residence is granted for four years to anyone who decides to develop their start-up in France, perhaps moving with their family. It all goes without saying, with tax allowances and red carpets to attract the best talents from all over the world, who might be able to work in Station F, another one of the start-up nation projects. It is the largest incubator of start-ups in the world, inaugurated just outside Paris last year, with the idea of bringing thousands of companies, talents and investors into the same physical place.

All this seems light years away from Italy but on a closer look that is not how it is. The numbers France started with before the accelerated Macronian economy are not so different from ours: until 2014 French investment figures were in line with Italian figures at around 300 million per year. And although with unpardonable delay, in our country hub for startup and competence centre are arriving. It is not enough and that is certain because to become a start-up nation investors and talents must be attracted, providing incentives through a substantial slimming of the bureaucracy and a turnover that must grow, even with government help.

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