Initiatives in Israel for Italian innovative firms

Israel is a unique mix of cultures and influences, but it also boasts an unusual primacy, being at the centre of the innovation world: indeed, it is considered the “Startup Nation”, the country with the highest startup density in the world and with a large proportion of its GDP being invested in Research and development .

The Intesa Sanpaolo Group also takes part in the buzz of Tel Aviv through Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center. We have organised acceleration programmes for Italian startups and “Tech-Tours” in Israel targeted at Italian companies interested in the latest innovations. Tangible support bearing witness to the relationship of collaboration and mutual respect between two countries, Italy and Israel, which are aware of the huge learning potential arising from the reciprocal exchange of experiences and skills.

“The complementarity between our systems is important: Italian skills, an industrial and manufacturing ecosystem and the wide range of Israeli technologies”


Gianluigi Benedetti. Italy’s Ambassador in Israel

In this way, we support several projects within one of the youngest and most advanced innovation ecosystems in the world. If, on the one hand, Israel has a cutting-edge innovation and scaling-up ecosystem, on the other hand Italy boasts a manufacturing and industrial system that is unique in the world. To recount our experience, we met Gianluigi Benedetti, Italy’s Ambassador in Israel since 2017. In a podcast made available by Intesa Sanpaolo On Air he shares his vision of the journey that led to the success of the “Middle Eastern Silicon Valley”. From the combination between state entrepreneurial vision and excellent collaboration between public and private, to an innate ability to dare and innovate and a strong attraction of foreign capital.


Innovation in Italy and the role of Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center

And what about our role?
In such a stimulating and constantly evolving scenario, our activity in support of the innovation ecosystem is comprised of numerous actions, starting from the analysis of the national context and looking at the most interesting and advanced international experiences and the best collaboration and skill sharing opportunities.

On the international scene, Italy is considered a moderately innovative country: the low percentage of investments in research and development compared to GDP (1.4% - Eurostat 2018 data), the insignificant presence of national and international VCs, the scarcity of patents and national scientific publications are just some of the factors hindering the country’s climb to the top of the international rankings of the most innovative countries in the world.

However, there are positive signs of improvement such as the increase in the number of companies listed in the Register of Innovative Startups held by the on Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) (over 11,000, up 3% compared to the last quarter of 2019), the increase in the average value of investments in startups (up 20% compared to 2019) as well as some elements of uniqueness such as the level of innovation in the manufacturing sector, the flagship of our economy and a pull factor for international innovation champions.
Unlike the most innovative ecosystems in the world where open innovation is supported by VC and Private Equity Funds, in Italy the main sources of loan for innovation come from the private sector, from profit and non-profit enterprises, which represent 55% of the market; Public Institutions follow with 32.3%, and, lastly, foreign lenders with 11.7%.
Business expenditure in R&D is concentrated above all in central and northern Italy: Lombardy, Lazio, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto alone account for 70% of the market.

In this context, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center sets out to be the driving force behind the development of the new Italian economy, supporting the growth of the best innovative companies, facilitating investments in open innovation of the Italian business fabric and promoting the matching of supply and demand for innovation. Today Intesa Sanpaolo finances around 25% of Italian startups and Innovative SMEs, ranking among the national leaders in the sector.

The numbers are encouraging: in the first quarter of 2020, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center analysed over 1,300 startups, of which around 120 accelerated and 30 included in the Tech-Matching portfolio whose purpose is to generate business opportunities for Companies and Corporate Customers of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group.

Thanks to numerous partnerships with incubators and accelerators of excellence and an extensive international network (from Israel to Hong Kong, from New York to London via Dubai), Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center is able to guide the growth and international expansion of the best Italian technologies, while at the same time facilitating the entry into the domestic market of the main international technological leaders to the benefit of investments and the innovative development of its Customers.

A concrete example of support to the innovation ecosystem is represented by the recent collaboration with the US accelerator Techstars which decided to launch its acceleration programme on Smart Mobility in Turin (European exclusive), at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni, a stone’s throw away from the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center headquarters.

Similarly, the multi-year partnership with The Floor in Israel (the main Israeli Fintech incubator of which Intesa Sanpaolo is a founding partner), the collaboration with Ourcrowd (the world’s top equity crowdfunding platform) and the role of technological advisor for the “Accelerate in Israel” programme promoted by the Italian Embassy in Tel Aviv and by the ICE agency, are a testament to the desire to play an active role in the Startup Nation (Israel) which has effectively become one of the main “suppliers of innovation” for the Intesa Group Sanpaolo and its Customers.


[1] Israel, an international innovative excellence, invests almost 5% of its GDP in R&D and VC investments per capita have an average value of approximately 300 euro (in Italy this value is equal to 2.7 euro)