Italian companies have understood how digital innovation is crucial for competitiveness and growth. As a result, in 2022, almost half of the large Italian companies and SMEs will increase their ICT budget, with investments in innovation expected to grow by more than 4%.
These are the research results conducted by the Startup Intelligence Observatory and the Digital Transformation Academy of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, presented at the conference “Startups and businesses in digital transformation: open innovation to accelerate recovery“.
Through surveys, face-to-face interviews, and workshops, the research involved over 1,800 Chief Innovation Officers and Chief Information Officers, CEOs and C-levels of SMEs, founders of Italian startups, Innovation Managers and R&D managers. According to the research, after the +2.6% growth forecast for 2019 and +2.8% for 2020, ICT spending was +0.9% in 2021 and is expected to exceed +4% in 2022.
According to the research, after the +2.6% growth forecast for 2019 and +2.8% for 2020, ICT spending was +0.9% in 2021 and is expected to exceed +4% in 2022.
Other functions outside the ICT Department also confirm the propensity to dedicate budgets to digital innovation (confirmed by 59% of large companies).
ICT investments by large companies in 2022 will focus mainly on Information Security systems, Business Intelligence, Big Data and Analytics systems. eCommerce and Smart Working, on which companies have worked hard in recent months to respond to the pandemic, will be less of a priority. Investments in Information Security are also the priority for SMEs, second to Industry 4.0 applications.
The research reveals that 63% of large Italian companies believe that the pandemic experience has accelerated their digitisation projects. And they are optimistic regarding the Recovery and Resilience Plan for Italy that allocates a large part of the funds (€ 49.2 billion) to investments in digital innovation. Furthermore, 69% of large companies believe that the Recovery and Resilience Plan will benefit their organisation, and 80% will support the country.
The need for companies to identify mechanisms to stimulate the external ecosystem of innovation is growing, and today 81% of large Italian companies adopt open innovation actions. Moreover, the ecosystem of players from which companies draw stimuli and ideas for innovation is increasingly broad and varied: 69% of companies have collaborated with universities and research centres, 47% have carried out startup intelligence, and 39% have scouted partners with established companies.
Startups are a key player in stimulating innovation in established companies as well. 49% of large companies already actively collaborate with startups, while this approach is still not widespread for SMEs.
Italian companies’ increased investments in digital innovation require defining effective governance and structuring adequate organisational models to spread the innovation process and digital culture.
Indeed, the critical elements for the management and development of digital innovation are the lack of support from institutions (42%), lack of time (38%), lack of skills (37%) and lack of economic resources (36%).
The main actions considered helpful to encourage and spread an innovative approach internally are participation in innovation initiatives, development of digital and entrepreneurial skills, sharing experiences, relations with external actors, creative thinking, space and time for innovation projects and accepting failure.
To this end, 39% of large companies have decided to structure an Innovation Department or a single dedicated role, while in SMEs, dedicated positions are still scarce. Moreover, in 44% of large companies, there are figures from other lines of business responsible for promoting the management and dissemination of innovation, together with the Innovation Department.
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