Industrial Structure dans ERIEP


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ERIEP | Number 4 | Selected Papers

The chemical sector in Italy: Industrial structure and competitive advantage

The importance of chemical employment over the total industrial employment in Italy declined sharply from 4.5% to 2.6% in the 1971-2009 period, and some studies concluded that the chemical industry in Italy has almost disappeared and that it has no future. This paper shows that the decline of the Italian chemical industry is mainly due to the disappearance of large companies operating in basic chemicals, while a new configuration is emerging for this industry based on SMEs having a good competitive advantage in the specialty chemicals. The competitive advantage of Italian firms is mainly due to niche specialisation, customized products, and flexible organisation.The paper considers the chemical industry as an enabling factor to foster innovation in the other manufacturing sectors: thanks to chemistry, the Italian SMEs in textile, furniture, ceramics, and other fashion-related sectors (jewels, eyeglasses, shoes, etc.) are able to develop new products. Innovation policy should therefore consider the links within the filières and supply chains in order to support the diffusion of innovation throughout the whole industrial system.

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