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19 October, 2014 - 19:09 By News Desk

Explore Export – Italy


Ahead of UK Trade & Investment’s ExploreExport event at Newmarket Racecourses on November 11, Vanessa Lista gives advice on exploring the possibilities of doing business in Italy.

1) What would be your advice to UK businesses looking to do business in your market for the first time?

Italy has a long-standing trade relationship with the UK. It’s the world’s ninth largest economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD$2014.6 billion in 2012. Italy is the second largest manufacturer in Europe behind Germany. 

Italian companies are globalising. Most are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which require professional services to grow internationally. Benefits for British businesses exporting to Italy include:

• European Union (EU) market, so no tariffs.

• Similar regulatory framework to UK.

• Easy access from the UK with low cost flights from several regional airports.

• Only 1 hour ahead of UK time.

• Gateway to Mediterranean markets.

• One of the world’s highest rates of household wealth.


Strengths of the Italian market include:

• Modern infrastructure. 

• High level of internationalisation and entrepreneurship.

• Strong manufacturing and innovation capability in several areas.

• Hosts many trade exhibitions with global appeal.

• One of the world’s top 5 tourist destinations.



2) Why is now a good time for UK firms to be looking to do business in your market?

Milan will host the Expo 2015 universal exhibition from 1 May to 31 October 2015. The theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ encompasses the major issues of sustainable development. The event offers multi-sector opportunities through partnerships and tenders.

Expo 2015 represents a global communication and promotion venue:

• Over 20 million visitors expected with 30% from abroad.

• More than 140 official participants as of June 2014.

• Thousands of events for trade and the general public. 

• UKTI will organise business weeks dedicated to assist the UK industry in the market.



3) What are the key opportunities for UK companies looking to approach your markets?

Bilateral trade in goods was valued at £23.5 billion in 2013. UK goods exports to Italy totalled £8,385 million in 2013, a 6% increase on 2012. This made Italy the ninth largest market for UK exports of goods. The main exports of goods by value from the UK to Italy in 2013 were: 

• Road vehicles.

• Machinery and mechanical appliances, boilers.

• Pharmaceutical products.

• Electrical machinery. 

• Audio and TV equipment.

• Mineral fuels and oils and distillation products.


Opportunities for specific sectors are:

Aerospace – The Italian aerospace industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the field of high-tech integrated systems in Italy. The National Aerospace Technological Cluster (CTNA) established 2012:

• Merged clusters in Apulia, Campania, Lazio, Lombardy and Piedmont.

• Is supported by funds worth €408 million.

• Expects additional funds from the European Horizon 2020 programme which has €70.2 billion for the aerospace industry.

The government supported Italian Space Agency (ASI) is the leader of the European programme for the VEGA satellite launcher. Italy is the third largest contributor country to the European Space Agency (ESA) and has been closely involved in major international projects. 

The UKTI aerospace team in Italy has strong relationships with many Italian and British trade associations. The team is present at major air shows, including Farnborough, to help UK companies business and Research and Development (R&D) opportunities in the Italian market.


Defence and security – Italy’s defence and security industry has a total market size of about £2.32 billion. Italy’s security focus is on:

• Terrorism, Immigration, Organised crime and Safety of transportation services.

Transportation is a priority concern as major airports and seaports have become primary security concerns. They are currently seeking to upgrade security resources and services to ensure 100% screening of passengers and work personnel.

The 2014 defence budget has allocated funding for:

• Building 10 large ships over a 10 year period for the Italian navy. 

• Procurement of new multi-purpose patrol vessels (PPE). 

The Italian government aims to have a contract by the end of 2014. It has allocated €6.8 billion to the navy project. The £3.69 billion project for PPE ships is designed for both military and humanitarian relief operations. 

The Export Control Organisation (ECO) issues licences for the export of strategic goods. You must check your goods you are meeting legal requirements for export.


Education – The Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) is implementing the €40 million ‘National Plan for Digital Schools’. This aims to transform education through use of Information Technology (IT), multimedia language and digital content. Projects include:

• Archiving and managing all school system data through the cloud (value €90 million).

• Exclusive use of digital books for teaching (timeline September 2015)

Regions are also developing their own projects, such as ‘Web Generation’ in Lombardy with a value €12 million.

Italian suppliers do not have all the solutions to comply with the ministry’s requests and need to outsource part of their offer. This represents a great opportunity for UK education suppliers.


Energy and green construction – Energy efficiency is the main feature of the March 2013 National Energy Plan. The objective is to exceed the Europe 2020 targets, preventing emissions of about 55 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Italy aims to adopt innovative technologies to achieve a further 25% cut in energy consumption by 2020 in industrial and trade sectors. Opportunities are available in:

• Improving plant performance.

• Energy efficiency and storage.

• Building renovation, including energy-efficient construction solutions.

• Low carbon heating and cooling systems.

• Technologies for biomass plants.

• Green construction solutions for new retail property development projects.


Life Sciences – The Italian National Health System (SSN) is going through an in-depth reform process to take into account:

• Ageing population, move of patients to outpatient care, increased focus on prevention and acceleration of e-health development.

There are opportunities for:

• Innovative equipment and medical devices.

• Innovative daily life aids for elderly and disabled.

• E-care and e-health devices.

• Food supplements and dietary foods.


Luxury and design led consumer products – One third of the world’s luxury items are made in Italy. This fashion and textile sector has:

• An estimated value of €52.5 billion in 2014.

• One of the highest purchase rates of fashion items in the world.

• High spend by foreign tourists.

• Global leading trade fairs.

British fashion brands often consider Italy as a gateway to other foreign markets. E-commerce grew by 18% in 2013. Fashion items and accessories make up 12% of all e-commerce. 

The cosmetics, perfume and toiletries sector in Italy: 

• Had €9.5 billion turnover in 2013.

• Has the world’s largest trade fair, Cosmoprof.

• Is growing in terms of natural and organic beauty products and artistic perfumery.

Italy’s furniture and interior design sector is made up of over 31,000 companies. It hosts the world’s top exhibition in the furniture sector, Salone del Mobile in Milan. There are opportunities for UK companies to supply:

• Materials and components.

• Product and service designers, and media.

• Innovative product and interior design solutions with environment-friendly features in the contract market.


Marine – The Italian marine sector has a:

• Turnover of over €2.497 billion (2013).

• Leisure boatbuilding industry which includes over 20 super yacht builders.

• 2014 Global Order Book which makes it by far the number one yacht builder nation.

• 546 marinas along Italy’s coasts.

Italy’s shipbuilding industry includes many other subsectors which offer good opportunities to UK suppliers.

There are good partnership opportunities in terms of R&D in the marine sector. 


Retail – There are several new property development projects which will include retail centres:

• Westfield Milan near Milan Linate airport (investment value €1.3 billion). 

• The former AlfaRomeo site in Arese near Milano (€700 million).

• Verona Porta Sud (€200 million).

• Scalo Milano, former Saiwa site (€170 million).

• Mid at Fiumicino airport, Rome (€100 million).


These projects offer investment and export opportunities. There will also be high value opportunities for the supply of infrastructure and structural products.


4) For companies coming to explore your market what sort of support can you offer to help them develop their exports in your market?

• Product/service evaluation.

• Ad-hoc introductions.

• Targeted Trade Delegations.

• In-country assistance.

• What do you want us to do? Tailored and dedicated support.


Twitter: @UKTIItaly

Email: MilanCommercialEnquiries [at] (MilanCommercialEnquiries [at]


• Commercial Officers from British Embassies representing more than 60 global markets are visiting Newmarket on November 11 to share detailed export advice. They are highly experienced market specialists who provide valuable insights, direct routes to market and new business opportunities aimed specifically at East of England companies. For further information about ExploreExport visit


Keep up with all the information about UKTI’s programme of events on twitter – @UKTIEast #ExportWeek

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