More than 800 companies, 13,700 employees, over 13 billion in turnover estimated in 2022 and a market that is recording growth on various variables testifying to a resilient, dynamic and strategic sector for the development of the country.
This is what emerges from the economic update of the ENEA-Assobiotec report "Biotechnology companies in Italy", now in its 8th edition, presented today in an online event.
According to the new report, the sector experienced strong growth in turnover in 2021 and a consolidation of the data is expected for 2022. On this variable, the weight of biotechnologies for health remains a priority with 74% of the total, but in the last two years, above all applications for the bioeconomy (industry and agriculture) have resumed expansion with growth rates of over 30% for both areas of application in the two-year period 2021-2022, coming to represent over a quarter of Italian biotech turnover with a share for 2021 equal to more than 25% of the total and in further growth trend in 2022.
In numerical terms, the population of active businesses in Italy underwent a slight contraction in 2020, a figure mainly attributable to the decrease in the number of SMEs, which have most felt the immediate impact of the pandemic, especially in the under 10 class employees. The numerical figure returned to growth in 2021 and growth is expected for 2022 for all size classes, for a total of 823 companies.
Although the activity of biotech companies remains largely concentrated in the area of human health (just under 50%), between 2014 and 2021 there was an expansion of the shares relating to companies that develop biotechnological applications for industry and the environment as well as for agriculture and animal husbandry which, since 2014, show the driving force they have for the bioeconomy.
If we analyze the size class, the share of micro or small enterprises exceeds 82% of the total, while large companies (+ 250 employees) represent just under 8% of the entire population under analysis.
At the territorial level, polarization remains very strong, above all for the economic variables: the first 4 regions (Lombardy, Latium, Tuscany and Piedmont) represent over 90% of the turnover, 80% of the investments in intra-mural R&D and the 80% of employees, while it drops to 52% if we consider the number of businesses.
The leading region remains Lombardy, followed by Latium and Tuscany highly specialized in applications for health, while it is the northern regions in general that show a marked specialization in the applications of biotechnologies to industrial processes.
In the south, which represents around 20% in terms of number of businesses, Campania (just under 8%) and Puglia (just over 4%) stand out.
“The new data give us back a sector that has proven to be more resilient than shown by previous estimates, even recording a slight growth in turnover from biotech activities in 2020 equal to +1.2%. After the peak of the pandemic and its effects on the economic system, the biotechnology sector experienced a strong recovery in turnover growth in 2021. A consolidation of the parameter is therefore expected for 2022", comments Gaetano Coletta, Head of the ENEA Offer Service and enhancement of innovation services. “If in 2020 the sector was supported by applications for human health, in the following two years there is a strong recovery of activities for industry and agri-zootechnics. Over a quarter of the turnover derives from applications in these areas and their development is the basis of the territorial diffusion of the biotechnology industry which has been affecting the regions of the North-East and the South for some years now, with Puglia and Campania in the lead. The leading region remains Lombardy, followed by Lazio and Tuscany, highly specialized in the health sector, which all three together account for over 80% of biotech employees and 60% of R&D employees”, concludes Coletta.
“Italy's biotech numbers are still small, when compared to other countries with which we are also in competition, but an extraordinary potential if we consider that a recent EY study tells us that globally biotech will triple its value between 2020 and 2028. – comments Fabrizio Greco, President of Assobiotec-Federchimica - Finally in our country today there are several elements that can make the sector grow and run: the PNRR which, in addition to making large economic resources available, asks the country to review and reform the operating rules of the entire reference ecosystem; new public and private capitals that today believe more in our realities; but, above all, the launch of a National Plan for Biotechnology, recently announced by Minister Urso. They are all very important building blocks that can help us compete on the international stage. It is therefore now necessary to make them operational as soon as possible to catch up with other developed countries and compete globally".
Complete report here: BioInItaly report 2023