Report: ANIE General Meeting – The status of the technology industry


The economic situation connected to the technology sector was the focus of the annual ANIE (National Federation of Electro-technical and Electronic Companies) General Meeting held in Milan last June, which saw the attendance of Claudio Andrea Gemme (President of ANIE), Giorgio Squinzi (President of Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry) and the economist Alberto Alesina. Here's the ANIE roadmap and the results of the survey which was presented during the event.

Growing with innovation

The impact of 4% of the R&D investments on the turnover is proof of the commitment of ANIE-connected companies (with 1,289 associate companies, a total turnover for 2011 equal to 71 billion euro and 450 thousand employees) to innovation and the applicative development of new technologies.

President Squinzi believes this is the key to go beyond the falling percentages in the economy, both in Italy and abroad. ANIE sets itself up as a “Technology House”, which is able to answer to the ‘intelligence’ needs originating from the most varied sectors, such as construction, transport, electrical and energy market, health and education. Infrastructural investments can bring a sweeping change. From here comes the proposal to invest in the ameliorative maintenance of existing structures, which need to be made compliant and technologically enhanced.

ANIE research

In June 2012, ANIE conducted a survey on a sample of 150 companies, which were situated primarily in the North (65%), to pinpoint the problems and solutions to the economic situation. 66% of those interviewed said the credit crunch was the biggest problem for companies, and it still persists due to the diffidence and scarce cash availability of the banks and to the excessive bureaucracy in accessing credit.

The alternative for ANIE companies cannot be found in the Stock Exchange: 72% do not believe in quotations as an alternative to financing (the contrary of what usually happens in the USA or the UK), even if 28% is confident of this possibility. The reactions to the crisis have seen the commitment to R&D prevail, with 29.6% of companies which has considered it important to invest in new products and technologies; this is followed by 24.1% which has implemented policies to reduce and curb costs, 11.1% also by diversifying activities, trying to find new market niches (7.4%), internationalising (5.6%) and re-organising the company (5.6%). Comforting data is that 91% has continued to invest (of these 45% in facilities and machinery, 43% in R&D, 12% for other purposes).

Who are the enemies of companies? First and foremost fiscal pressure (74%), followed closely by bureaucracy (73%), failure to invest in the internal market (67%) and delayed payments of the PA (50%).

The roots of the crisis

This aspect was handled in the speech by Alberto Alesina who identified the root of the imbalance in differences between community states in terms of productivity and public debt and in some elements which all states share, which are the banks, the speculative bubble, construction and the credit crunch.

The euro has paradoxically complicated things because its introduction has not seen the contemporary implementation of employment market reforms which would allow wage flexibility and increases in productivity, with the exception of Germany, with respect to which the other countries have found competitiveness.

The uncertainty on what actions to undertake and on the activity of the EU have made the economic situation even more “imbalanced” with the risk of recessive spiralling. In Italy, the 2012 GDP is expected to be slightly lower than what was expected, -0.8; part of the economy is resisting despite the credit crunch, but it is necessary to change the employment market, reduce taxes and public spending.

A difficult 2012: practical proposals

Another drop in the turnover of ANIE sectors overall (-2% approx.) is expected again in 2012, due to considerable structural problems which contribute to the emptiness of internal demand. On the other hand, the companies have become ever “smarter” in response to the new demands imposed by technological development, so ANIE asks for a national maintenance programme which allows to introduce every possible improvement in the existing property assets.

Looking at the energy efficiency in construction, according to recent IRES research, against an investment of 27 billion euro in technology, the increase in added value to 2020 would amount to 43 billion euro and the number of employed would grow by 311 thousand units. This would also lead to advantages and savings in safety. In this sense the public sector would provide the example, transforming public procurement into “an incubator of technological excellence and innovation”.

ANIE also asks for certainties in policies and an environment which is favourable to investments, open to foreign markets. Compared with the last employment reform by the Monti Government, 55% of the business men interviewed in the aforementioned ANIE survey consider the reform as still insufficient and 19% grossly insufficient; only 26% consider it positive but with room for improvement.

Finally, an assessment on the initiatives which the Government should take: promote greater normative clarity, a national and a regional energy plan for transports, drop in fiscal pressure, flexibility of the employment market.

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