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The innovation in the evolution of the ‘Italian industrial model’: lights and shadows


  • Alessandro Romagnoli

    () (University of Bologna)

  • Manuel Romagnoli

    () (Monitoraggio Economia e Territorio (M.E.T.))


Abstract A long-standing stance argues the Italian industrial system does not comply with the “correct development process” because of its innovativeness shortage due to the skewed firm size distribution of its SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises). Such an approach, backed by innovation statistics, stems from the idea that ‘a firm’s growth equals innovation, which in turn equals competitiveness’. Yet these arguments both rely on a narrow concept of innovation and fail to match with historical facts. By putting the Italian industrial history into a Langlois’s (2003) perspective, this article suggests that “the Italian exception” actually represents one among several possible outcomes of the co-evolution among knowledge, technological progress, institutional development and aggregate demand dynamics. We further provide an analysis with very recent descriptive statistics showing that, even during the current crisis, “not so big” has not meant “not so competitive”. Therefore, innovativeness must be channeled in the right direction, because it concerns all those strategies allowing firms to “buffer risks”. What the Italian industrial system really lacks is consistent institutional and structural policies facilitating firms’ efforts toward new technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Romagnoli & Manuel Romagnoli, 2016. "The innovation in the evolution of the ‘Italian industrial model’: lights and shadows," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 309-337, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:ecopln:v:49:y:2016:i:2:d:10.1007_s10644-015-9168-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s10644-015-9168-4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Malerba, Franco, 2002. "Sectoral systems of innovation and production," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 247-264, February.
    2. Langlois, Richard N., 2002. "Modularity in technology and organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 19-37, September.
    3. Masahiko Aoki, 2013. "Endogenizing institutions and institutional changes," Chapters,in: Comparative Institutional Analysis, chapter 16, pages 267-297 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Giacomo Becattini & Marco Bellandi & Lisa De Propris, 2011. "Industrial districts: the contemporary debate," ECONOMIA E POLITICA INDUSTRIALE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2011(3), pages 53-75.
    5. Richard N. Langlois, 2003. "The vanishing hand: the changing dynamics of industrial capitalism," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 351-385, April.
    6. Franco Malerba, 2006. "Innovation and the evolution of industries," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 3-23, April.
    7. Fabio Busetti & Pietro Cova, 2013. "The macroeconomic impact of the sovereign debt crisis: a counterfactual analysis for the Italian economy," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 201, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    8. Antonio Accetturo, & Antonio Bassanetti & Matteo Bugamelli & Ivan Faiella & Paolo Finaldi Russo & Daniele Franco & Silvia Giacomelli & Massimo Omiccioli, 2013. "The Italian industrial system between globalization and crisis," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 193, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    9. Malerba, Franco, et al, 1999. "'History-Friendly' Models of Industry Evolution: The Computer Industry," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 3-40, March.
    10. Alfred D. Chandler, 1992. "Organizational Capabilities and the Economic History of the Industrial Enterprise," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 79-100, Summer.
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