Why does Trieste have the most innovative startups in Italy?

Talents, structures, synergies and context: the 4 elements that make Trieste a startup city.

Trieste Città startup

I’m going to tell you a secret. I don’t like classifications, especially those that are not connected to indicators of real value.

I retain, in fact, that the number of innovative startups does not represent – in and of itself – a sufficient parameter to determine the socioeconomic development of a territory. It would be interesting to know some other elements as well: the birth and death rates over a certain period, the return in terms of earnings and occupation… Also because I think we could have even bigger surprises here in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
I have to admit, though, that my idiosyncrasy for classifications came into doubt when I read that the province of Gorizia has the third most startups in Italy percentage wise. That, in fact, all of the provinces within the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia are positioned well (some even very well) in this classification: it cannot just be coincidence. “Not to be controversial, but maybe it’s because your region has a special statute for political autonomy?” somebody asked. “Could be, but that’s not enough”. It could be anything actually. Without any pretention of providing either a structural or analytical framework I have collected four different elements. Thanks also to the help of two friends, Valentino and Barbara, who could support my opinions with their own experiences as startuppers.
1) The talents. I am not referring to the “young talents”: there are many in all of the regions in Italy. Actually, I am not even talking about “young people” (startups do not exist with young people alone). The point is that in Friuli Venezia Giulia (and above all in Trieste) there are a percentage of researchers who have ranked among the best in the world for years. ‘And it is obvious” – states Barbara – “that a researcher, if he decides to create an enterprise, will not create a classical productive company”. And, not only, many talents are not leaving but arriving here: half of the researchers and students in the region are from outside of Italy. And the phenomenon continues to grow: the latest data reveals a 5.3% increase in foreign students and 1.02% increase in foreign researchers compared to 2011.(Source: Indagine della Mobilità – Coordinamento Enti di Ricerca FVG)
2) The structures. At this point there are incubators, accelerators and other competent structures throughout Italy. But the concentration of places dedicated to research or innovation in Friuli Venezia Giulia is significant (fonte): over 50 research entities, 4 science parks, 2 certified incubators, 3 universities, international schools like MIB, etc., in a territory that has less inhabitants than the city proper of Milan. “Until 2 years ago, I didn’t have the slightest intention of becoming an entrepreneur. But since I left the laboratory, I have received opportunities for development, growth and training at a high level”, noted Barbara. “It is not a coincidence that in Trieste and Gorizia there is a science park like AREA Science Park operating in synergy with other realities, as well as structures like the University of Trieste, SISSA, etc.”, explained Valentino. This is true: over half of the innovative startups of Trieste and Gorizia were supported by AREA. In any case, all of these realities (even in Pordenone and Udine) offer services and expertise that can contribute to transforming the enormous baggage of research and innovation into economic value for the territory.
3) The synergies. For some years now collaboration between the numerous entities has been reinforced. Because “creating systems” is at this point a necessity (given the lack of funding), or because uniting expertise creates better services for the territory. There are various work groups where representatives from all of the involved institutions work together to optimize strategies and initiatives (Ecosistema Startup FVG), creating methods to export to other Italian territories (like Basilicata, Calabria, Sardinia, etc.). But it is not just a mere institutional operation. The story of Valentino is indicative: “I come from the university, I knew about the Innovation Factory incubator, they accepted my business idea by supporting it and following it along a very difficult path. In 2009 we became a company inside AREA Science Park and we have grown a lot. Then we participated in Startup Opportunity of Pordenone(Confindustria, Polo Tecnologico, Fiera), sustained by Ecosistema Startup FVG: there we began relations that resulted in a joint venture with Gruppo Servizi CGN, the market sector leader in financial consulting services, development of software services, financial assistance and professional training and the holding company for Friuli Venezia Giulia, Friulia Spa”.
4) The context (social-historical-economic). “The Triestines are historically merchant people: the industry is not productive but more typically service”, notes Valentino. Hence, it is (almost) easier for a Triestine to create a startup than a traditional productive company. “It’s true! – sustains Barbara – ‘Triestines are independent by nature”. “It is a borderland, like Gorizia: in Brianza there are productive companies, here – possibly pushed also by the crisis – they are looking for opportunities with both our innovative and commercial vocations!” It is not by chance Trieste takes second place for startups among a group of 10,000 young people (Fonte Sole24Ore). And it comes in first place if we count the startups the 10,000 enterprises registered (Source: enterprise register infocamere, elaborations by Enrico Martini of the Ministry of Economic Development – Link)
All good, then? Of course not, there is still a lot to improve. The sole presence of innovative startups is not enough, in any case, to create a real value for the territory. Creating an ecosystem around them that is capable of making them grow by producing profits, attracting foreign investments (“Europe is by now a local market!” I hear repeatedly), finding solutions and tools, even financial ones, to simplify and favor development. And in order to understand how to reach these goals we are organizing a public event on December 6th at the AREA Science park that hopes to become a consideration shared with the entire ecosystem for tips and proposals for improving the norms of DestinazioneItalia, the strategy that has just recently been elaborated by the Italian government (more info)

And what do you think? When do startups represent a true value for a territory?

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