Milan is a Cluster of Innovation

Often Milan and its Region are in the press because of their many records, but this time we want to analyze what are the implications for entrepreneurs and firms through the lenses of the Cluster of Innovation (COI) framework.[1] COI are places where new technologies can be developed quickly and pools of financial and human capital foster the birth of new firms and the introduction of new ways of doing business. In this vibrant ecosystems, start-ups, mature enterprises and supporting services work together across a range of industries broader than in technology and business clusters.

The figures aired in a recent event organised by the Milan Metropolitan City within the Design City festival, show that Milan is a COI: twelve universities and higher education institutions and eighty research centres make of this city a place of choice for domestic and international students. Its 45,000 foreign students find a wide range of excellent education opportunities with many programmes in English. Milan is the first destination for talents that come back to Italy, and thousands young dynamic people arrive every year to study, find a job or establish a startup. Indeed, the number of incubators, accelerators, fab-labs and co-working spaces puts the capital of Lombardy in the world league. The majority of Italian innovative start-ups operate in Milan and most of them are financed by venture or corporate capital. No wonder that Milan is the 3rd most highly sought among graduate employers city in the EU (after London and Paris) and the 16th in the world (QS Best City for students 2016 ranking).[2]

Why companies and investors should consider Milan for their investments? Because this is the top metropolitan area in Italy and one of the best in Europe to develop new products and services and market them locally and globally. The blend of entrepreneurial dynamism, capital availability, old and new firms, academic and research institutions is unique. More than elsewhere, here the local governments have understood the role of investors and enterprises to foster innovation and economic growth, as well as the importance of ties with other clusters of innovation.

To this regard, the Municipality of Milan has signed agreements for young enterprises exchange with the Cities of New York and Amsterdam within the Global Business Exchange program.  “The Global Business Exchange is already providing an extraordinary link between New York City businesses and the rest of the world, with companies currently expanding into Paris, and this exchange with Milan is the next step toward tapping into international talent and consumers,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer. These agreements aim to provide assistance, with a soft landing program, during the initial and crucial startup life phases. The project is developed by  the Municipality of Milan in collaboration with the Milan Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Milan Chamber of Commerce and its Special Agencies (such as Promos – Invest in Lombardy), Assolombarda Confindustria Milano Monza e Brianza and the support of Fabriq, Speed Mi Up, PoliHub, Parco Tecnologico Padano and BASE. Also the Fab Lab and Coworking networks took part to this initiative.

The location of a business influences its strategy and viability. Milan as a Cluster of Innovation is an excellent choice because it provides access to all kinds of resources and enables experimentation, learning and adjustment necessary to set up a successful business. Also those people and firms that for various reasons cannot locate their firm in Milan, they should develop interconnections to this portal to the future. The reward for all will be more business opportunities and faster growth.

Written by – Michele Coletti, Professor of Innovation Management

[1] Jerome S. Engel (2015) Global Clusters of Innovation: Lessons from Silicon Valley. California Management Review. Vol 57, No. 2, Winter Issue.


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