Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Always handmade – Parmigiano in Reggio Emilia (BEST PRACTICE)

July 14, 2010

 This is one of the world’s best-known and most established clusters. Situated in Emilio-Romagna, the heartland of business clusters in Italy, the cluster can trace its roots to the 13th century.

 It attributes its distinctiveness to the taste that originates in place of origin, long aging process, natural fermenting agents and lack of any additives, and to the unusual cooperation among the milk producers, cheese makers, and agers who refine the cheese. Every step in the process is strictly regulated, from what the cows are fed (hay), how often they are milked (twice a day), the separation and the production steps.

 In 1901 the Reggio Emilia Chamber of Commerce established a union between producers and traders of cheese to brand its origin. In 1928 a voluntary Consortium for Parmigiano Cheese was established, and since 1955 it has protected its brand and prevented those outside Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna from using the name or mark fraudulently. The EU’s campaign against the use of protected European food names by producers outside the designated region of origin is also intended to protect the name “Parmesan” from cheese products originating outside the designated production region.

 The continuity of the cluster depends on attracting apprentices into a program that takes at least 8 years. More than 20% of the cheese is now exported, with recent domestic demand slack, in part because of the drop in pizza sales in Naples. The consortium is looking for ways to increase its exports, difficult for the many small producers. Last year the Italian government purchased 100,000 wheels of the cheese and donated them to charity. (Source: Appendix to Growing Jobs, Vermont-Style: Skills and Knowledge for Vermont’s “Sustainable Food System Cluster” and Natural Resources May 2010 – details next month)

Make ‘em come, make ‘em stay

August 20, 2009

We have uncovered a gem – at a conference in Victoria in July.

It was about a regional agritourism project in a northern Italian region, that saw agritourism ventures almost double in about five years.

Hospitality and tourism teacher Pauline Porcaro noted that, between 1999-2007, the area saw a 223% increase in arrivals and a 207% increase in visitor nights. Pauline, recently returned from an overseas fellowship, described the Gallo Rosso (Red Rooster) accreditation system as very exacting for business operators e.g. top ranking requires that all soft furnishings are made of natural fibres; operators are not to give up farming; tight restrictions on accommodation size.

In exchange, there is government aid, especially for training. “Marketing, enhanced by the government funding, is certainly the way to go,” she said. Pauline spoke of the lack of such a consolidated push in Australia. “We need to define agritourism. Let’s join the rest of the world. I want funding for farmers and a good strategic plan and good signposting in every town. Industry has to help to lobby government, tourism networks must work with farmers and we need to start to use agritourism as a term. Nobody stands alone to create a good movement. Let’s grab them get them off the bus on their way down to the penguin parade and let’s keep them here!”

She described the typical set-up as the men running the farm and women the tourism businesses. Operators sell local products, for example wine to visitors. Among the variations is a teaching farm for city schoolchildren. At a cost of about $5-6 per child, operators provided a home-made snack and insights into farming life. Another farm ran an ‘adopt a sheep’ program. “You visit farm, adopt a sheep and take home a photo of the sheep…you get regular updates and once a year they get a bit of fleece or cheese … what a great way of raising revenue!” or (We figure there is a great opportunity for some Cockatoo members to join forces and make a funding submission. We will keep a look-out for the right program. Contact us if you are interested – Editor.)

Veneto’s competitive advantages

April 7, 2008


Karen MacRae is a marketing consultant who practices in Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto heartland. A couple of years back she provided us with some material on the dynamics of the Veneto region of Italy. It provides interesting insights: 


Veneto (Venetia) is one of Italy’s larger regions (population 4.5 million – Venice, Verona, Padua, Vicenza).


Like most of the Italian northeast, it is now flourishing – highly mechanised agriculture, a tradition of heavy industry (oil, chemicals etc), and an explosion of smaller companies in specialised manufacturing districts. The region is No. 1 in Italy in tourism revenues and is the most export-oriented. It is characterised by 11 strong industry sectors, generally in major geographic clusters. They include:


Metal and Mechanical – 24,000 companies. Exports = US$14 billion.

Hide Tanning – World centre of hide tanning in Vicenza – 760 tanneries, with turnover = US$3.2 billion.

Marble and graniteThe marble area is a proper district, 25 km by 25 km running along the Adige River – 1,431 SMEs and 4,000 workers. Exports have doubled to US$760 million in last six years.

Clothing – Major brands such as Benetton, Diesel, Marzotto and Stefanel – but also many SMEs.

Eyewear – 80% of Italian eyewear manufacturers – 1,000 companies. Turnover of  US$1.5 billion.

Footwear – 115-120 million pairs of shoes are manufactured yearly – 86% exported – concentrated in provinces of Verona, Rovigo – Montebelluna produces 65% of the world’s ski-boots.

Furniture – 13,000 companies in the wood/furnishings sector employing 69,000 workers.

Goldsmith’s Art – between Vicenza and Bassano is the industrial jewellery sector – 2,000+ enterprises.

Creative Craftsmanship – Veneto has 132,500 artisan companies.

Agriculture and Food – Traditional strong point of the Veneto economy.


The fundamentals that characterise the Veneto model are SMEs, co-existence of traditional products with technologically advanced activities, internationalisation of markets, and organisational flexibility.


However there are concerns regarding the lack of network technologies in small firms, the negligible contribution by the service sector to exports, and the need for training, certification, and research, particularly into Internet based technologies.  Veneto does not seem to lack the financial resources, so much as the imagination and determination to make them work better.


The establishment of a Veneto Internet portal to market the region’s 11 industry cluster-sectors could stimulate the rapid growth of a webservices industry sector. The starting point is seed capital to prepare a strategic plan for the Veneto Internet portal. (Karen’s company is profiled at


Environment district – Ravenna, Italy

November 3, 2007

Five years ago, Florence Vidal, an international consultant, described the emergence of an environment district in Italy. The article is now especially relevant as various regions want o asser their credentials as an environment precinct.

Vidal explains that during the 1950s, important gas fields were discovered in Ravenna, 120km south of Venice. This fostered the fast development of the petrochemical industry, but produced significant environmental damage.

The local community became very quickly aware of the fragility of the ecosystem, but the main question was how to reconcile industrial activity with sustainable development.  

The answer was found in a co-operative approach. A communication and information campaign was realised, focusing stakeholders on the problem. Regional environmental laws were enacted in regard to investments and infrastructure development. Research programs were then launched to identify relevant, economic solutions.

During the 1980s-1990s, the territory gained competencies in heritage protection, waste management, risk prevention etc. “The Ravenna territory has become a real environment district” says Florence Vidal.

Source : “France-Italie” (Sept/Oct 2002) See via newsletter SPL INFO,

Germany leads Europe in R&D intensities

October 17, 2007

R&D figures in the European regions from Eurostat show that R&D efforts are highly concentrated in economic clusters and top EU regions.

On a national level, Germany scores both the highest overall result and has the highest number of R&D intensive regions.  The regional pattern of R&D personnel distribution shows that high concentrations are clustered in the capital regions and/or important industrial and technological regions (southern Germany or northern Italy). The top region in terms of private sector R&D intensity was found to be Braunschweig (Germany) followed by Västsverige (Sweden)

In terms of government sector R&D intensity, 9 out of the top 15 R&D regions are German, 3 are French, 2  are Dutch and one is Greek.    

Source: Eurostat click here

Window for regions to sell themselves

October 16, 2007

Italy has made regional branding work – but it’s a dismal scene Downunder apart from Canterbury lamb, King Island beef and cheese, Barossa wine etc.

The situation isn’t helped by the apathy of the supermarkets and multinationals, and indifference by governments in supporting regional branding initiatives. But a window is emerging via the push for country of origin labelling on food products, courtesy of the National Party and the grower/farmer groups.

As argued here before, people have a genuine interest in knowing more about the origins of a product. If the National Farmers Federation pushed hard, the mechanism could be extended to provide greater specificity as to the source of local product – instead of some nondescript industrial suburb in Melbourne or Sydney where the company suits are located.

A good agenda for some regional organisations of councils. 

Denmark’s networking program

October 16, 2007

The program was inspired by the industrial districts in Italy. It was based on the idea that, together, enterprises can overcome obstacles and conquer markets beyond their reach and that external assistance can play a role in facilitating cooperation.

The program was designed by the Danish Technological Institute, funded by the central government, and implemented by the National Agency for Industry and Trade. The key player have been network broker, who helps to identify opportunities, brings participants together, and assists in implementing new ideas and projects. 

Cooperation between enterprises has been promoted through skilled external assistance and the leveraging of public resources. Over the five years of the program’s existence, 5,000 enterprises became involved in forming networks (out of a target group of 10,000) – 75 percent of participating enterprises expressed that the networking was making them more productive and raising their ability to compete, and 90 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to continue the practice of networking beyond the subsidy period.

The success of the program has positively impacted on the Danish business culture, and networking has become a natural option.  

In conclusion, public policy or government intervention can be a catalyst for creating clusters and networks.  

Source: Etienne B. Yehoue, IMF 

Michael Porter struts his stuff in Sydney

October 16, 2007

The Harvard professor and popular author drew an audience of 1,000 at $1,000/head in Sydney a couple of years ago, where he talked about competitive advantage and clusters. He recently gave an interview with Business Week. Main points: 

§          There are no barriers to investment. But the paradox is that location still matters. The U.S. is still the most important space in the world, and regions have tremendous specialization. Anything that can be easily accessed from a distance no longer is a competitive advantage. But the more there are no barriers, the more things are mobile, the more decisive location becomes. This point has tripped up a lot of really smart people.

§   As a result, the bottom half of U.S. locations are facing more stress. Many cities used to have a natural advantage just become they were in the U.S. But that is not such an advantage any more. We are finding a tendency for the rich regions to get richer.

§  Now that globalization continues to power forward, clusters must become more specialized in individual locations. The global economy is speeding up the process by which clusters get more focused. There is a footwear cluster in Italy where they still produce very advanced products, but much of the production has shifted to Romania, where the Italians have developed another cluster. All of the production companies actually are Italian-owned. Taiwan has done the same by shifting production to China. The innovation is in Taiwan, but its companies are moving aspects of their cluster that don’t need to be in Taiwan.

§          The notion of industry clusters is now pretty much ubiquitous. Many regions now look at development in these terms, and have identified many different clusters.

§          It’s very important to understand that the bar has risen substantially. Everything matters now. The schools matter. The roads matter. You have to understand this is a marathon. Also, you can’t try to built clusters across the board and be into everything. You have to build on your strengths.

§          Interaction between one region and its neighbors is important. The overlap between clusters is very important in stimulating growth. Isolated clusters are less powerful than integrated clusters. That’s because new clusters often grow out of old clusters. You need a lot of cross-company collaboration in a region. Meanwhile, universities used to be seen as stand-alone institutions. Now, more regional economies see universities as players and are integrating them into industrial clusters.

§          National policies and circumstances explain 20% to 25% of why a regional economy is doing well. What really matters is where the skills and highly competitive institutions are based. Some of these assets take a very long time to build. But competitiveness essentially is in the hands of regions. 

Vestas takes the bait in Singapore

October 15, 2007

Hard on the heels of Heinz’ decision to base its regional headquarters in Singapore, Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines, located its R&D team of 150 engineers there in 2005. It included a reported investment of $US319 million over the next 10 years.

The Danish company has installed more than 30,000 wind turbines in more than 50 countries, and has 35% of the world wind energy market. It has new plants in China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Scotland, England, Spain, Sweden, Norway, India and Australia.  

Vestas’ efforts in Australia are instructive. Although Vestas windfarms have sprung up, and the company established an assembly plant at Wynyard (Tasmania), no serious value-adding occurred by way of a blade plant or R&D. There was the prospect of SA and Tasmania combining their purchasing power to spark something, but no one could connect the dots. But now Vestas announced the closure of the Wynyard plant at end 2006, with the loss of 65 jobs. This is a real surprise given that the plant was only commissioned a couple of years previously.

BusinessWeek reported in 2005 that the clincher for Vestas in Singapore was the chance to collaborate with local universities, which would team up with the Singapore EDB covering almost all of Vestas’ research costs. “The EDB offered us almost everything we wanted and more,” says Vestas Asia President Thorbjorn Rasmussen.

Lazio’s innovation scoreboard

October 15, 2007

The Lazio region of Italy (surrounding Rome) has a Regional Innovation Scoreboard that borrows methodologies from the EU version. However it has developed its own indicators and is now sharing these with other regions through the Mutual Learning Platform and now the OMEN project.

It is also looking at benchmarking innovation policy via 23 indicators – education, employment, R&D levels and patenting, spread of new technologies etc. Three new indicators were added last year – capital growth, the ability of the region to attract foreign investment, and the development of business to business services.  “We are now trying to develop cognitive indicators that will shed light on cultural, historical and social factors behind innovative activity” said Luis Iurcovich, who coordinates the scoreboard. The scoreboard allows the region’s policymakers to assess their innovation performance against other regions, and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. 

Contact: Luis Iurcovich –