Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy, 1861-2011

Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy, 1861-2011

Federico Barbiellini Amidei, John Cantwell and Dr Anna Spadavecchia

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The research focuses on the impact of international technology transfer on innovation and TFP growth in Italy. It reconstructs the different phases and dimensions of Italian innovative activity, tracking the transfer of foreign technological knowledge through a number of channels and analyzing the impact of imported technology. The study is based on a newly constructed dataset, covering the period 1861-2009, including variables related to: innovation activity performance; foreign technology transfer; domestic absorptive and innovative capability.

The analysis highlights, also by econometric assessment, the significant contribution of foreign technology both to innovation activity and to productivity growth. Differences across channels of technology transfer and historical phases emerge, also in connection with the evolution of human capital endowment and domestic innovative capacity. Machinery imports contributed positively both to innovation activity and to productivity growth; inward FDI contributed positively to the latter, but not to the former; the accumulation of human capital fuelled both. In the long Italian Golden Age, for the first time the association of foreign technological knowledge with indigenous innovation processes strengthened productivity significantly. More recently instead the dismal productivity growth is significantly associated with under-performance in formalized innovation activity and reduced imports of disembodied technology.

The findings of the project were presented to an audience of practitioners, policy-makers and academics last October in Rome and will be disseminated internationally through a series of conferences at embassies.

Outputs to date:

Forthcoming: Anna Spadavecchia 'Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy, 1861-2011' with Federico Barbiellini Amidei and John Cantwell in: G. Toniolo (ed.), Italy and the World Economy, 1861-2011, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Anna Spadavecchia 'Innovation and Foreign Technology in Italy, 1861-2011' with Federico Barbiellini Amidei and John Cantwell, Banca d'Italia Economic History Working, Paper, n. 7