What measures have been taken to counter today’s terrible economic situation?
Applications for non-refundable funds started on 15 June. This is one of the measures contained in the ‘Relaunch Decree’  designed to directly restore some of the damage caused by Covid to SMEs in our country. It consists of immediate liquidity given to companies and sole proprietorships with revenues of up to 5 million euros, which will be disbursed by the Italian Revenue Office.

Also for SMEs, the reduction of excise duty on electricity bills from May to July 2020 will come into operation, and no request will be required: the reduction of costs, from 4% to 97% depending on the power used, will be automatic. This, together with state-guaranteed public reinsurance of € 12 billion, the abolition of the 2019 balance and 2020 advance payment to IRAP, TOSAP and COSAP, will bring a little bit of respite to the difficulties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is also the Liquidity Decree, with the part concerning the Guarantee Fund for SMEs. To date, about 738 thousand applications have been submitted for a total of about 42 billion guarantees granted. In practice, since the entry into force of the decree, we are talking about more than half a billion euros of guarantees granted per day, despite the slowness of some credit institutions that have, nevertheless, equipped themselves to fill the gap of the first two weeks.

Finally, until 13 August 2020, companies, VAT holders, small business owners, and farmers who have suffered damage and loss of turnover due to the Covid emergency, will be able to apply for non-refundable compensation. With the Relaunch Decree, we have allocated 6.2 billion euros for this relief measure.
The process is managed by the Italian Revenue Office and has been built to be simple and immediate. The sums will be disbursed directly to the beneficiary’s current account and checks will be carried out later, in order to further speed up the procedure. We are talking about compensation of up to 40 thousand euros. 
The amount paid will be equal to:
– 20% for companies with a turnover of up to € 400 thousand
– 15% for companies with a turnover between € 400 thousand and € 1 million euros
– 10% for companies with a turnover from € 1 to € 5 million euros. However, starting from minimum repayment thresholds.

How will you manage the flow of money from Europe?
We will use it to secure some historical weaknesses and fragilities in our production system: under-capitalisation, the difficulty in accessing innovation, promoting the return of those companies that have moved their production abroad (perhaps by studying a hyper-amortisation plan for assets brought back to Italy, or a super-evaluation of capital used to replant new factories in Italy, not taxing the work carried out in the first years).

What do you think is the best way to face the challenges that lie ahead?
What we need to do today as a government is to firmly embrace an economic policy that stimulates investment, growth, sustainability and innovation. This is certainly a more difficult path and one that doesn’t make headlines. But we have a duty to look to the next ten years. Today more than ever, a long-term economic and industrial perspective is needed.

What are the first steps towards this type of policy?
The 2020-2022 business plan “From Italy to Innovate Italy” of the National Innovation Fund – Gruppo Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Venture Capital, seems to be a good start. 
My Ministry has strongly supported the establishment of the National Innovation Fund and the Technology Transfer Fund. Both represent a strategic opportunity for Italy. We live in a country where ingenuity is combined with excellence: we want to make it easier to transform ideas into products and processes, and start-ups have the ability to read the needs of the market and to offer consumers new solutions, and companies, even the most traditional, new ways of meeting demand.
It is a matter of statistics: the more we sow, the more likely we are to succeed. And we will sow through these two business policies that were created precisely to overcome the current difficulties.
The NATIONAL INNOVATION FUND will operate using the instrument of Venture Capital, an area in which the data of recent years bodes well for the future. The Fund will operate through direct and indirect investments with a focus mainly on all sectors of innovation in which our country is already able to express traditional excellence or is able to play a leading role in global competition, thanks to the talent and ingenuity of our “founders” and entrepreneurs. The NIF’s budget is approximately 1 billion euros.
Whereas, the TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER FUND (ENEA TECH) has 500 million euros at its disposal, and wants to bridge the gap between those who make innovation and those who do business. The NIF dedicates itself to supporting the growth path of start-ups over time, up to industrialisation and commercial launch on the market, while Enea Tech intervenes at the base of the innovation system by investing exclusively in the pre-commercial and pre-competitive area, i.e. the area that sector operators call the “valley of death” accompanying the important innovation developments of research centres, SMEs and spin-offs. 

With regards to innovation, in past years the focus has been on Industry 4.0. How do you plan on carrying out that project?
With the recently launched Transition 4.0 Plan, which has 7 billion euros for investments in innovation, ‘green’ solutions, research and development and design and aesthetic innovation activities, and in Training 4.0.
The plan has the ambition of being the first brick on which to build Italy’s new industrial policy. Transition 4.0 increases the number of potential beneficiaries in the world by 40%. With the adoption of the tax credit as the sole instrument for accessing incentives, we guarantee a leverage effect between innovation and eco-sustainability, while preserving the full automation of the measures. In addition, the times of use will be greatly sped up by eliminating the constraints between investments in tangible and intangible assets.

Environmental sustainability is in fact an issue at the heart of numerous international political projects. How will you address it?
We have allocated € 210 million euros of incentives to companies’ research and development projects aimed at the reconversion of production activities. With this measure, MiSE wants to support research, development and experimentation of innovative and sustainable solutions, in order to promote the reconversion of production activities towards a circular economy model in which the value of products, materials and resources has a longer life and waste production is reduced to a minimum.

Are there any other important initiatives in favour of SMEs?
The project already underway to promote the patentability and enhancement of industrial property by SMEs. To date, € 56 million have been made available with the aim of facilitating the use of patents to protect the technological innovations of SMEs, to enhance the value of trademarks and designs, and also to promote technology transfer projects developed by Universities and Research Institutions.
In order to meet the requests of those who were unable to submit applications for contributions, the MiSE has decided to anticipate the issuing of the 2020 planning decree to apply for access to the Patents+, Designs+ and Trademarks+ measure, making an additional € 43 million available. The deadlines for the submission of new applications will be fixed by mid-July.

Lastly, the deadline to apply for the “Voucher 3I –Investing In Innovation”, i.e. an incentive programme dedicated to innovative start-ups. With a budget of € 19.5 million for the three-year period 2019-2021, managed by Invitalia, the incentive is intended to support the competitiveness of start-ups by financing the protection, in Italy and abroad, of innovation processes through the industrial property patent.