A lot of places have claimed the title of “new Silicon Valley” over the years, but Northern Italy seems to have what it takes and is attracting a lot of international attention. When you think of good reasons to start a business in Italy, your mind might jump to the nice weather, world-renowned cuisine and excellent work-life balance. Starting your own enterprise has also become easier than it used to be. Over the past three years Italy has become friendlier and more attractive than ever to startuppers and innovators, due to a stream of incentives and the introduction of simpler business regulations. Not only this new trend is motivating young Italian entrepreneurs to embark in new and innovative enterprises, but it is also drawing aspiring startuppers from abroad, resulting in a surge in startup visa applications, particularly from Russia and China.
Is Northern Italy the new Silicon Valley?
Tax incentives and easier visas
Since 2012, a set of regulations has been implemented with the specific intent of encouraging innovative startuppers to choose Italy as their operational base. The so called “startup act” includes significantly simplified bureaucratic procedures and tax incentives up to 30%. Visa applications for motivated startuppers have also been processed faster, with responses arriving within 30 days of the original application, after a quick check of investments and assessment of the project. A startup visa allows successful applicants to stay in the Country for one year and it can be extended. As a result of these policies, 2016 saw a 158% increase in applications.
Who, when and why
Who are the startuppers moving to Italy? Where are they settling and what kind of projects are they working on? As well as the already mentioned Russian and Chinese entrepreneurs, applications are coming in from American, Ukrainian and Pakistani startuppers. Their preferred destinations are the northern regions of the Country, particularly Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Piedmont and Veneto. Rome has also proved relatively popular. Large cities are generally preferred to small towns – despite the higher cost of living. Language and the need for an international living and working environment can be significant discriminating factors in a young entrepreneur’s choice of destination. Engineering and tech innovation are the preferred fields of expertise of the international startuppers relocating to Italy.
A new Silicon Valley
Several Countries and regions have been competing for the title of New Silicon Valley and Trentino-Alto Adige is our most likely candidate. While the regional GDP can’t be compared to that of the Californian hub of innovation, it is undeniable that this region has been promoting growth, entrepreneurship and innovation better than any other in the Country, and providing the right infrastructure for it. Trentino has been investing on average 1,8% of its GDP in research and development, when the national average is 1,2%. Thus, this autonomous region has established itself as a beacon of technological and social progress, drawing some of the most promising startups in Europe, working closely with schools and universities to create a positive environment for innovators and drawing young talent from all over the Country and beyond. Compared to the metropolitan areas of Rome or Milan, most locations in Trentino also offer a better quality of life, cheaper accommodation and a healthier environment.
While some of the most interesting policies and financial incentives of the past few years will not be sustained in the long term, a new trend has been emerging and it shows no signs of abating any time soon. Incubators and Accelerators have been emerging all over the Country and a growing number of startups have been growing past the dreaded three-year mark. The future of Italian innovation appears to be brighter and ever.