After Germany, Italy has Europe’s largest manufacturing industry. Italian companies have managed to increase their turnover on foreign markets, and many industries are doing well, including automotive, machinery and engineering, pharmaceutical goods, clothing and footwear, food and beverage.
To stay competitive as a nation, Italy has introduced several growth-enhancing measures. Many large projects have been initiated by the government to develop the physical and digital infrastructure as well as the energy sector. Italy also hosts three major UN agencies and two large international logistical hubs.
Opportunities for Swedish companies
Swedish products are held in high regard by Italian consumers, something many Swedish companies take advantage of, often through subsidiaries and partnerships. Italian businesses are particularly interested in our products and services within manufacturing, ICT, electronics, vehicles, health care, life sciences and environmental technology.
As a newcomer on the Italian market, it can be challenging to get to grips with the country’s complex bureaucracy. In the interview below, our Country Manger Pelle Jacobson has a few tips on how to deal with this and other business risks in Italy.
How we can help
Business Sweden has been active in Italy since the 1970s. From our office in Milano, we also cover the nearby markets Greece, Cyprus, Malta, San Marino and the Vatican. Together with our global business developers in Sweden, we can guide you through the entire internationalisation process – from market analyses through strategic advice to finding suitable business partners.
Pelle JacobsonTrade & Invest Commissioner
What are the main advantages for expansion in Italy?
Clear advantages are the size of the market and the potential customer base, access to expertise and subcontractors as well as the strategic location close to many key markets in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Large investments are currently being made in areas where Italy historically has under-invested, for example in energy and digitalisation. There is a demand for new technology, innovation and sustainable solutions, areas where Swedish companies often are at the forefront.
What are the risks and challenges companies may face in Italy?
The most prominent challenges are linked to the complex bureaucratic system and time-consuming administration, long payment times, the economic-political uncertainty and differences between northern and southern Italy. The best way to minimise risk and the administrative burden is to collaborate and consult with local expertise. The language and cultural differences are also often seen as challenges. These challenges are less pronounced when doing business with large international Italian companies. We often help Swedish companies find a local partner who can act as a sales channel and has a local network, and we see the impact this has for growth in Italy.
Are there any cultural aspects to consider?
Italy is an economy based on relations, and compared to many northern European countries, it might take time to establish a relationship initially. It is also important to have the first meeting in Italy and invest time in building trust with business partners. Italy has a distinct business hierarchy that is important to respect, and there is often a clear decision maker. That being said, the business cultural differences are less significant than you might think. We see that Swedish companies sometimes have prejudices about what it is like to do business in Italy, but many of these preconceived opinions are discarded after an initial business visit.