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Research and development, innovation, access to information and communication technologies are recognized as fundamental drivers of the economy of knowledge; their role is fundamental in the development of European strategies. Among the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy, adopted by the European Union starting from 2010, there is the implementation of concrete actions at a European and national level, to ensure a smart economic growth characterized by investments in the education, research and innovation sector.
In 2017, in Italy, the amount of total expenditure for internal research and development (R&D) supported by enterprises, public institutions, private non-profit institutions and universities was approximately 23.8 billion euros, with a 2.7% increase, compared to the previous year. The percentage incidence of the total R&D expenditure on the gross domestic product was 1.38% in 2017, and remained substantially stable compared to 2016.
In 2017, R&D personnel (expressed in full time equivalent units) amounted to 317,628 units, a 9.5% increase, compared to 2016. 62.5% of R&D employees work in the private sector (enterprises and private non-profit institutions), 25.3% work in universities and 12.2% work in public institutions.
In the 2014-2016 period, it is estimated that 48,7% of industrial and services enterprises with at least 10 persons employed realized or introduced innovations. A good part of the growth was represented by the effect of the increased investment in product and process innovations. Enterprises with product/process innovation activities (innovators in the strict sense) increased from 31.9% in the 2012-2014 period to 38.1% in the 2014-2016 period. There was also an increase in successful innovators (35,7% of enterprises), who introduced at least one product or process innovation on the market or within the enterprise. The propensity to innovation is picking up among the small and medium enterprises; while with regard to the big large ones it is declining, due to a lower propensity shown in services. From a sectoral point of view, the propensity to innovation is getting stronger in the industry, but lower in the services.
In 2019, the share of enterprises with at least 10 persons employed owning a website or web pages (72.1%) to enhance their business remained stable.
The share of young people aged between 20 and 29 residing in Italy, who in 2017 have earned a degree in technical-scientific disciplines (14.5 per thousand), recorded a growth of 0.7 points, compared to 2016. Rates by gender increased almost to the same extent, but the gap between males (17.1) and females (11.7) remained unchanged.
In 2019, 70.4% of the population aged 6 years and over regularly used Internet. Among young people aged between 15 and 24, nine out of 10 regularly used to connect to internet. 74.2% of men and 66.9% of women regularly used internet. However it should up to 44 years of age gender differences are very slight, and among 11 17 year olds there is an advantage in favour of young females.
In 2019, 74,7% of households had an accessed Internet using a broadband connection. From 2010 to 2019, the share of households, with a fast connection to access the Internet at home, increased considerably (from 43.4% to 74.7%), with an average annual increase of 3.5 percentage points.
In 2017, over a third (35.3%) of total R&D spending was concentrated in the North-West of the country, followed by the North-East with a share of 26.4% of the total; the Centre and the South covered, respectively, 23.7% and 10.7% of the total, while the share of the Islands was 3.9%. In terms of incidence of total the R&D expenditure on regional GDP, the three regions with the highest values of the indicator were: Piemonte (2.09%), Emilia-Romagna (1.98%) and Lazio (1.70%).
Considering the business R&D expenditure, in relation to GDP, the first three positions belonged to Piemonte (1.71%), Emilia-Romagna (1.50%) and Lombardia (0.98%).
In 2017, in Italy, there were an average of 5.2 R&D workers per thousand inhabitants. In the North, almost all the Regions, with the exception of Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen, showed values close to or above the national average and the highest values of the indicator were recorded in Emilia-Romagna and in the Autonomous Province of Trento. The Regions of the Centre, except for Umbria, also showed values higher or in line with the national average; while all the Regions of the South and Islands were at levels below the national average.
The share of enterprises in the South and Islands that used a website (56.5%) did not increase, and a gap of almost 20 percentage points was confirmed compared to the Centre-North (76.1%). Also the share of enterprises of the Centre were still below the national average, while businesses in the North were the driving force.
In the 2014-2016 period, in terms of propensity to innovation, the primacy of enterprises resident in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Lombardia was confirmed. Instead, lower propensity to innovation characterized the enterprises of the South and Islands. Last in the ranking were the enterprises of Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste, Sardegna and Calabria.
In 2017, the share of young people aged between 20 and 29 resident in Italy, who obtained a degree in technical-scientific disciplines, increased by 0.5 points per thousand in the North-West Regions, in particular in Piemonte (0,7 points) and 0,4 points in the South and Islands. Among the regions of the South and Islands, the most consistent increases were recorded in Molise (+1.6 points per thousand) and Basilicata (+1.5).
In 2019, a strong imbalance in the use of the web between the Central-North regions and the South and Islands remained (73.2% compared to 65.1%). In the autonomous province of Trento, the highest percentage of internet users (76.4%) was recorded, while the lowest share was present in Calabria (62.1%).
In 2019 the differences among the regions were still considerable and the advantage of the Centre-North remained; while in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto and Lazio, the share of households equipped with broadband connection was close to 80%. On the other hand, the Regions with the lowest use of broadband connection were: Molise, Calabria, Basilicata and Sicilia. Compared to 2018, there were no significant changes, with the exception of Calabria which recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points in the share of households equipped with broadband connection.
In 2017, R&D expenditure was 2.07% of the GDP. Sweden, Germany, Austria and Denmark exceeded the 3% threshold set as a common target for the Europe 2020 strategy; Italy ranked below the main European partners and had not yet reached its national target set at 1.53% of GDP.
In 2017, R&D employees (full-time equivalent units) were on average 6.1 per thousand inhabitants in the EU. Italy, with 5.2 R&D employees per thousand inhabitants, ranked below the main European economies.
In 2019, with regard to the use of websites by enterprises, Italy was at the eighteenth place among the EU countries, recording 6 percentage points less than the European average (78.0%). Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden were at the first places in the use of websites, with shares of over 90.0%.
In the three-year period from 2014 to 2016 Italy, with over half of enterprises that carried out innovative activities, was above the European average (50.6%) even though the distance from the leading countries in innovation such as Belgium, Finland, Germany and Austria was still important.
In 2017, the attainment rate of a degree in technical-scientific disciplines among young people aged 20 and 29 was still growing in most European countries, particularly in Ireland, Poland, Croatia and Portugal. In Italy, the growth (+0.7 points compared to 2016) was still insufficient to fill the gap with many other European countries; for ten countries the indicator was higher than 20 per thousand.
In 2019, Italy was among the last positions in the European ranking with 74% of regular internet users aged between 16 and 74. The average value of the EU countries was 85%, while the countries with percentages close to 100%, included Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
In 2019, the percentage of Italian households with a broadband Internet access was below the European average (89%). The Netherlands achieved a 98% internet access rate.