Last 14 May, Confindustria presented its annual report on the industrial system, entitled “Dove va l'industria italiana”, at its Assolombarda headquarters in Milan.
The report highlighted how world manufacturing is coming out of a long phase of development, which took place under the sign of globalization, which had seen the emergence, at world level, of a multilateral vision of international trade and a progressive liberalization of markets. The exit from this phase has placed the industrial economies in front of completely new paths.
Italy, which is still the seventh manufacturing power in the world, is facing a strongly changed context in which the support guaranteed up to now by international demand risks being reduced, while on the other hand the question of the structurally weak domestic market is still unresolved.
In this context, as the Report shows, the persistent weakness of investment demand stands out, strongly penalised by the collapse of the public component dedicated to infrastructure. The private component itself, even if supported by policies to encourage the transformation of manufacturing into a 4.0 key, is also affected by the climate of growing uncertainty, both from an economic and political point of view.
Industry 4.0: hyper-depreciation
The Confindustria report underlines the need for Italian industry to make progress in the digital field. A significant part of the Italian production system has in fact long since taken the path of qualitative upgrading to be competitive on prices and to be able to enter niche markets where there is greater added value.
It is necessary to continue to encourage the digitalization process with hyper-depreciation, an important fiscal tool that allows a progressive digitalization.
Hyper-depreciation has been the main measure with which the Italian Government has supported investments in capital goods by companies in recent years. In the Report, estimates by the Centro Studi of Confindustria and the Finance Department of the Ministry of Finance on the amount of investments facilitated by the measure in force in 2017, show that the measure has been a great success by Italian companies, with about 10 billion euros spent on investments in machinery and equipment 4.0.
It also emerged that more than 80% of the subsidised companies belong to the manufacturing sector. The metal products sector is in the lead (26% of investments in machinery and equipment 4.0), ahead of instrumental and chemical mechanics (both at 9%).
The hyper-depreciation was used mainly by companies in Northern Italy (86% of investments): Lombardy (35%) followed by Veneto (17%) and Emilia Romagna (16%). All the southern regions have very low levels of investment, with the exception of Sicily, which, with a quota of subsidised investments of 3%, is on a par with Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the upper part of the ranking.
Another interesting element emerged in the report: this measure of tax incentive, which was initially thought to be dedicated exclusively to large companies, was actually widely used by small and medium enterprises. The 96% of the beneficiaries, to whom 66% of the investments supported correspond, are composed of companies with less than 250 employees. 35% of 4.0 investments are even attributable to companies with less than 50 employees.