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Italy Ranks 5th in Europe For Green Tech Competitiveness

The ecological transition, to materialize without undermining the levels of well-being of the population – the objective on this front is indeed that of an improvement – will need a mighty technological leap forward towards the green economy: renewable energies instead of fossils, electric motors instead internal combustion, chemical recycling instead of waste-to-energy, and so on. Is Italy ready for this leap?

In reality we are already in mid-air, as shown by a research by the Enrico Fermi Research Center (Cref), presented to Cnel by researchers Angelica Sbardella and Aurelio Patelli, as part of an event organized together with the Institute of Economics of the Scuola Superiore Sant ‘Anna of Pisa and the inequality and diversity forum.

Cref’s research focuses geographically on Europe 28+ and on the period 2000-2016, given that before this time interval, patent activity in the sector of green technological innovations was “almost non-existent in most countries” and after the data “are not of sufficient quality to be used”.

From the point of view of the quantity of green patents presented, Italy in 2016 is fourth on a par with Spain with 4% (in 2000 it was 3%). Leading the ranking is Germany with 46% (down from 56%), in second place France with 17% (which doubles from 8% in 2000) and in third place the United Kingdom with 9% (from 8 % of 2000).

As far as Green technological fitness is concerned – i.e. a measure of green competitiveness – in 2016 a gradual growth in competitiveness was observed in the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe, with Italy fifth after Germany, England, France and Austria.

In particular, the Italian green technological capacity, in 2016, focused on inventions related to technologies in four key macro-sectors: reduction of greenhouse gases in the energy sector (31%), mitigation of climate change in transport (19%), in construction (15%) and in the production of goods (15%), but also in other sectors such as waste management (7%).

Among the regions, Lombardy is in first place for number of green patents (which was also first in 2000), followed by Piedmont (same position as in 2000), Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, and Tuscany in fifth position. Lazio goes down from fifth to seventh. The first region of the South is Campania, followed by Puglia. Sicily worsens (it was the ninth region in 2000, it is now in 14th place) and Molise closes the ranking.

As regards green technological competitiveness, significant progress was recorded in Italy from 2000 to 2016. The regions in the first quartile increased from 4 in 2000 to 7 in 2016 (Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Valle D’Aosta, Tuscany, Lazio and SüdTirol). Lombardy and Lazio are the driving forces and represent the only two regions to position themselves in both years in the best fourth among European regions in terms of Green technological fitness, but Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Liguria are also positioned among the European regions with the greatest technological capabilities greens. There are also regions that lose in green competitiveness, in particular Piedmont and Marche, which fall into an intermediate position together with Umbria, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Campania

What to do to keep progressing? For regions still lagging behind in the green transition, research shows they could aim to develop combinations of know-how that are more likely to foster green development, such as in digital archiving, mechanical engineering, especially related to plants lighting, and in chemistry, particularly in cements and ceramics and wastewater treatment.

More generally, green innovation and industrial policies, according to the economist Andrea Roventini of Sant’Anna, must be supported by regulations that prevent, for example, the sale of cars with internal combustion engines from 2035 and gas boilers from 2025 or that impose stringent energy standards on buildings: «We need green industrial and innovation policies, and an innovative state that supports cooperation between public and private companies, and makes the most of the great potential of Italian public companies, whose technological and industries are essential to decarbonise the economy. An active state in supporting workers and in managing corporate crises of the transition, which can be an opportunity to reposition companies involved in green productions”.

Observation of Roventini, Sbardella and Patelli

As Roventini, Sbardella and Patelli jointly observe, to date «unfortunately, in Italy, the public debate tends to ignore or trivialize global warming, or to offer anachronistic answers such as the latest generation snow cannons. It also insists on a false dichotomy between the fight against the climate crisis and economic development. Nothing could be more false: for Italy, in decades of economic stagnation, the climate emergency is perhaps the last opportunity to relaunch sustainable growth, creating new opportunities for businesses and jobs”.

Sustainable growth also means reducing inequalities, which have now reached worryingly high levels – 0.134% of the richest Italians have as much wealth in their pockets as the poorest 60% of the country – while the ecological transition itself requires a rebalancing in order to flourish.

Indeed, the Cref research shows that the relationship between income inequality and the Green technological fitness of countries is negative and significant, because high inequality is associated with higher costs and uncertainty in the development of new green technologies, as already discussed on these pages.

«Cref’s research shows that the green transformation is already an ongoing process, in Italy and in Europe, and is not in conflict with development: social and environmental justice can march together – concludes Fabrizio Barca of the inequalities and diversity forum – The research confirms that in societies with less economic inequality green technological fitness is greater, and that environmental transformation can produce good jobs and development. But we know that nothing is written. Fitness is not a prophecy, it is a potential that must be realized. This is where policies play a fundamental role.

This article is originally published on

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