Under the umbrella of the recent convention ‘Futuri – pronti all’impresa’ (Futures – ready for the enterprise), held in Rome in October, the Young Businesspeople of Confindustria (Giovani Imprenditori di Confindustria) discussed answers to leave behind the crisis that is hitting the whole world following the pandemic. The discussion was in terms of innovation and sustainable development, rotating round four points considered essential – young people and women, energy and ecologic transition, connections, and regional inclusion. We asked Gabriele Menotti Lippolis, president of Young Businesspeople of Confindustria South (Giovani Imprenditori di Confindustria Sud) his opinion on these topics in an interview.
FLOWS: The Covid-19 pandemic, now in the midst of its second wave, places a series of questions in front of us about what the ‘new normal’ will be in every sector of daily life. We’ve already questioned all the paradigms of social and economic interaction, the search for new balances among biological, technological and cultural ecosystems. What resources for project development and investment can the Italian business community make available to offer an adequate response to this global challenge?
Gabriele Menotti Lippolis: I’ll answer in terms of quality, rather than quantity, based on an assumption – young businesspeople have project development, aptitude and innovative ability in their DNA. I’m sure that many, even with the current difficulties, will know how to seize opportunities for new business and investment. So, I’m confident that we’ll be able to meet and beat the new challenges launched by global competitivity, with special attention to green investment, especially in the transport and circular economy sectors. In ancient Greece, crisis meant transition, a period of passage from an old to a new balance; crisis was a constructive time when the preconditions of a new society arose. We have to find this new balance all together.
F: The European Community recovery plan has the name ‘Next Generation EU’, an epoch-making occasion to place at the centre of political debate as well as the financial investments and the future of young people. What urgent provisions are you hoping for that can be put into effect in the short- and medium-long term for the good of the new generations?
G.M.L: Following the unexpected events and radical changes we’re experiencing, especially those attributable to climate change and the Covid pandemic, young people are the driving force for the best catalysis of investments, starting from the Next Generation EU plan. As a result, the co-ordinates of this new Cartesian plane should be innovation, research and development, university on one hand and industrial activity on the other. In an interview, Draghi, the former ECB President, speaks of pragmatism and logic to work as a system as they are key concepts without which ‘reconstruction’ is impossible.
In all this, young people show a strong entrepreneurial spirit and, in fact, there has been an increase of 3% in the creation of innovative start-ups oriented to business services (innovative software, R&D, and manufacture of machinery and computers). So true innovation providers through whom a virtuous ecosystem is being created that’s connecting Innovation, Green economy and new generations – this is the ‘happy end’ of Confindustria. A fortiori, all this can be fulfilled if, finally, at political/government level, a humus favourable to the development of companies (real cuts in bureaucracy, certain timing for permits and faster civil justice) is created.
“Innovation, Green economy and new generations: this is the ‘happy end’ of Confindustria”
F: Can the green economy really be the main driver of development in the transition to a more resilient model of society and a more sustainable production system?
G.M.L: The green economy is already an important driver of development. Different and increasingly oriented on some key words such as circular economy, green deal and eco-planning favouring the creation of a new model of society founded on sustainable planning and the ‘servitisation’ of the economy. It’s only like this that all the industrial value chains, including the high energy-intensity sectors, will have a key role in the decarbonisation of industrial processes and the passage to the new paradigm of circular economy. It’s a revolution that will require considerable investment, which the European Commission estimates at Euro 260 billion a year.
F: Infrastructural investment has always been the driver of recovery to emerge from periods of depression. What do you think are the most strategic infrastructure projects (physical and digital) for the relaunch of the Italian economy?
G.M.L: First among everything, investment on broad band, a factor of digital modernisation that should concern the whole country, eliminating inequalities between different areas. The infrastructural improvement of the Italian transport system (road, airport, port and railway connections) is equally important with special reference to the most penalised areas. Obviously, the time factor is of fundamental importance in the fulfilment of this infrastructure, so that we don’t slip back even further in comparison with our competitor countries. I imagine green connections not just between towns but also between airports in the same Region, ports and railway stations.
F: According to data recently issued by the Statistical Observatory of Special Construction Workers’ Funds, which indicates timid but promising signs of recovery in the construction sector, southern Italy isn’t benefiting, remaining on the edge of deep recession. Antonio Di Franco, vice chairperson of the Commissione nazionale paritetica per le Casse Edili (Joint National Commission for Special Construction Workers’ Funds) speaks of “a three-speed Italy in which one speed not only isn’t running but has stopped and remains behind”. What action are you taking as businesspeople to sustain the change of course?
G.M.L: Without prejudice to the fact that businesspeople always try to do their best, the above-mentioned slowness highlights critical points concerning the public sphere, both political-administrative and the productivity of the public sector. While it’s true today that competitivity is more between systems than companies, it’s clear that businesspeople are penalised in global competitivity.
So, constructors in the south of Italy have to move in this terrain mined with bureaucracy. As Young Businesspeople of the South we’ve asked that, in addition to the Green New Deal launched by the European Commission, a New Deal for the South is put into effect. Southern Italy must return to being a priority in the strategic choice of politics, in an integrated development plan for the whole country. The amount of infrastructure in the south of Italy is lower in terms of quantity and quality. Today, we risk being less able to compete in Europe and globally. It’s essential that the south of Italy is put into the condition of playing its part in the economic relaunch of the country.
Simulations by the Bank of Italy have shown that an increase in public investment of 1% of its GDP in southern Italy would result in an increase of 0.3% in the GDP of Central-North Italy.
Having said this, we businesspeople, young and not so young, from north to south, will continue to be propositional without giving up, aware that the coronavirus crisis could be a lock pick to dismantle inefficiencies and parasitism once and for all.