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The aim of the work is to investigate processes of internationalization followed by Italian firms, as a path of sustainable growth after the recent economic and financial crisis. However, the facets of such a process are numerous, complex and often closely related: delocalization, fragmentation of the productive process, technology and innovation transfers and globalization of production chains, are just some of the most significant aspects. Production delocalization is one of the most frequent answers to the growing pressures of globalization: if many micro-enterprises have been blown away by the crisis, for many others the process of qualitative upgrading of products, as well as the strategic one, are proceeding. The most dynamic growth of outgoing productive investments has to be ascribed to companies of medium size, so confirming the relationship between size and complex organization of activities. As far as internationalization and innovation are concerned, empirical evidence for Italy highlights that modes of being present in international markets makes a difference: firms resorting to cooperation agreements, are able to generate more innovation compared to their colleagues localized in national markets and this is due in part to massive knowledge input, but also to greater access to external ideas. The right investment mix in innovation, organizational and technological improvements, as well as the participation to a network and an active role in the global value chain, are essential because the strategy of internationalization becomes an opportunity and not a threat.
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Onodera ( 2008).
Pittiglio et al. ( 2009).
Unicredit, “Rapporto Unicredit sulle piccole imprese”, VII edition 2010–2011.
This is the work of Tattara, Corò, Volpe ( 2006). The described data are the contribution to the balance and composition of Italian trade for primary, intermediate (semi-finished parts and components), final goods (investment and consumption). The indicator is that of Lafay, which measures the contribution of a sector to the total trade balance, through normalizing the weight of the different sections. For a detailed description, see the cited work.
It is again the study by Foresti, Trenti in Tattara, Corò, Volpe ( 2006).
Some terms need a more specific definition: outsourcing is related to the production of a company that operates outside national borders, whereas delocalization (often used as a synonym of outsourcing) is when part of the productive process leaves the country but not the company because it is carried out by a foreign subsidiary company or a company that is part of the same group. Joint venture instead is a more structured collaboration with foreign enterprises.
Modes of internationalization within the Report are: export, import, FDI, international agreements of technical cooperation and subcontracting relationships with foreign countries. Enterprises in the survey are 9480, in 33 European countries (27 EU members and 6 non members: Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway and Turkey). Firm sizes are micro (1–9 employees), small (10–49), medium, (50–249) and there are 26 sectors of activity.
Unicredit Report 2010: Italy places itself at the seventh place in the world for exports and at eighth for imports.
The majority of studies on Italian export (this included) do not consider the last revision of Istat on export volume data: the old series were deflated with unit values, whereas now export prices are used. The new data show a strong increase (and not a decline) of Italian export volumes from 2003 onwards, compared to EU competitors such as Germany and France.
Production prices on domestic markets have decreased more than those on foreign markets (5.4% versus −2.6%) and this anomaly can be explained by the recession’s stronger impact in Europe than in other countries, so that the fall of domestic demand has induced European enterprises to suffer greater losses of profit than foreign ones.
Cranec Report ( 2008).
For instance, in East Asia the share of Italian export is 6% versus 7.9% of Germany and 7.4% of France.
Such as machines for agriculture, machine tools, machines for packing, motors, etc. There are plenty of examples: in the footwear district of Vigevano they went from the production of shoes to making machines for the production of shoes.
It is the World Investment Prospects Survey 2009–2011 of FMI ( 2009).
It is Istat enquiry on structure and activities of Italian subsidiaries, resident in Italy (Inward FATS), published in 2010, for the year 2008.
These enterprises, the medium size, have been defined in literature the fourth capitalism (Mariotti and Mulinelli 2008).
The sample is of about 3,800 enterprises and covers 4% of the relevant universe, represented by Italian firms with at least 10 employees, as is reported by ASIA archive of Istat. The enterprises are asked whether they have decentralized a part of their production or whether they intend to do so within the next 12 months.
Particularly in these sectors the few positive balances are recorded, between the share of enterprises that delocalize for the first time and the percentage of those with no productive capacity abroad: 5.71 and 1.79 respectively.
This confirms what has been highlighted by Micelli et al. (2003): at the beginning low value added and labour intensive activities were transferred, but over the years small and medium enterprises have delocalized activities with a higher technology content.
The data refer to the percentage of firms that delocalized for the first time, and those that did so previously, in 2008, 2009, 2010.
A study by Centro Studi Unioncamere-Assocamere Estero ( 2002) highlights that subcontracting is one of the major strategies of district firms, even preferred to FDI and joint-ventures, due to the high fixed costs associated with these last categories.
In research by Formez in 2004, out of 764 small and medium sized enterprises, only 12% used forms of equity internationalization, while more than 40% had achieved stable contractual relationships with foreign enterprises outside the EU, or had used subcontracting with operators usually located in Eastern European countries.
This work by Bonomi, in Unicredit Report 2010 on small enterprises is based on declarations collected in 2009/2010 from a group of excellent enterprises located on different productive platforms of the country.
A significant example is footwear, where imports from emerging countries (China and Romania above all) covered 77% of total import in 2004, for the Italian provinces where the main footwear districts are located (Foresti and Trenti in Tattarà, Corò, Volpe 2006).
2,603 enterprises were considered. The level of response (owners and managers were interviewed) was 76%: quite high if compared to similar studies in England, with lower rates of 42%.
A similar result was reported by the Unicredit Report on small firms ( 2010), according to which internationalized firms are usually more innovative (51.1% of those selling abroad, versus 33.6% of those operating on the domestic market). Data refer to firms that have undertaken innovation or significant changes in their activities within the last 2 years.
See the contribution of Bernard et al. 2003.
The dataset used refer to the Second Community Innovation Survey (CIS-2) and to European Linkages and Ownership Structure (ELIOS); 778 firms were considered and the period during which an innovation was undertaken goes from 1994 to 1996.
It is the database built on the IX Enquiry into manufacturing firms, conducted by Unicredit-Capitalia (ex Mediocredito Centrale). Interviews were conducted in 2004 to a representative sample of firms active between 2001 and 2003. All the firms with more than 500 employees are included in the dataset, the sample with between 11 and 500 employees has been stratified by localization and industry.
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