Biotechnology in Lombardy: leadership among Italian industries and excellence around the world

Nowadays Biotechnology is a hot topic. During these days the 2015 BIO International Convention  takes place in Philadelphia (US). It is the world’s largest biotechnology gathering, and Invest in Lombardy, of course, is attending.

Biotech is a point of strength for the Italian economic development and Lombardy is a territory where this industry has successfully developed a cluster model, meaning a significant factor for the attraction of investments.

If you had the occasion to watch this video, launched in January by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, maybe you already noticed the emphasis on some industries that are not so much celebrated and traditionally mentioned as “made in Italy”.

Most of the communication about Italy, indeed, is focused on fashion, design, style and, lately, about craftsmen. They are all Italian distinctive point of strength, but we know that Italy is also machinery, automotive, aerospace, satellites and more. More means pharmaceutical, biomedical and biotechnology industries.

Let’s go deeper into the biotechnology topic, because Assobiotec (the Italian Association for the Development of Biotechnology) recently released a report dedicated to biotechnology in Italy and full of facts and figures.

The sector grew in 2014 by 4.6%. The growth, going on in the last years despite the crisis, is evident also in terms of number of companies (+1.6%), employees (+ 2.8%) and investments (+4.5%). Biotech benefits also from the superior productivity of Italian researchers: with 1.1% of the world’s researchers and 1.5% of total global spending, Italy produced 3.8% of the planet’s scientific articles, obtaining 6% of all citations, thus ranking first and six times higher than the world average in terms of citations.

Lombardy, recognized as bioregion in the European Union, with 117 out of the total 384 biotech companies based in Italy, is certainly the leading region, where biotech can be defined as an industrial cluster, gathering science parks, universities, start ups, corporate and related services.

The advantages related to base a biotech business in Lombardy are easy to understand: the region is the first in Italy for number of dedicated structures (3 incubators and 3 scientific parks focusing on biotech), it has a well assessed pharmaceutical industry and the perfect habitat perfect habitat for businesses and institutions aiming at developing new high-tech products. Lombardy offers a wide network among specialized suppliers and other bodies, such as universities (7 State universities, 5 private universities and 1 higher education centre with special charter). Lombardy hosts also several prominent centers for research, both private and public, among which there are 11 institutes of the National Centre for Research (CNR) out of 107 in Italy and 17 teaching hospitals/institutions (out of 42 Italy-wide).

Being biotech an innovation intensive industry, start ups in biotech are eligible for the incentives included in the Innovative Start Ups Act (Legislative Decree No 179 of 18 October 2012, converted in Law No 221 of 13 December 2012). Several incentives as well as exceptions to the general rules applicable to enterprises are provided by this regulation, aimed to stimulate and attract investments, encouraging innovation through the creation and development of new companies qualified as ‘innovative start ups’.


Biotechnology: “intended in the broadest sense of the term, can be defined as a set of technological tools that exploit the knowledge of molecular biology and other advanced life sciences, and uses living organisms (such as bacteria, yeast, plant cells, animal cells of simple or complex organisms) or their purified sub-cellular components (organelles and enzymes) to produce useful results in the field of health, agriculture, industry and environment” (

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