Despite relatively limited engagement between the startup ecosystem and Government compared with other European cities, Milan has a pipeline of companies capable of transforming the country’s public services.
Leading the way in national economic growth, sustainable mobility, digital transformation and entrepreneurship, Milan is Italy’s smartest and most sustainable city. Most notably, Milan Council has introduced Chiara – a chatbot created by Microsoft and Teorema that provides citizens and tourists with instant information about the city and its services.
At a national level, though relatively weak in other urban innovation areas, Italy is a leading nation for open data. With 56 open data portals, the Open Data Maturity Report listed Italy as a ‘trendsetter country’ in 2017. According to the Europe’s 2017 Digital Progress Report, Italy is ranked 25th (out of 28) in terms of digitalisation. Compared to other European countries, Milan’s ecosystem is still at an embryonic stage. However, this is set to change, and Milan is at the forefront of this transformation. This transformation is supported by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, which launched an ambitious €13.7 billion Industrial National Plan 4.0 to support greater digitisation in 2016.
Milan is home to 1596 startups – nearly a quarter of the national total figure – with a strong focus on software, IT and science companies, as well as a number impact-driven enterprises. This number has led to the city being ranked as the 10th best European Startup Hub.
Of the 41 incubators and accelerators based in Milan, a significant number are backed by universities and local government. This includes SpeedMiUp – a growth incubator founded by Bocconi University, the Chamber of Commerce and Milan Council, PoliHub, and FabriQ.
To date, investment in startups has been significantly lower compared with most of the other European cities featured in this report. However, Milan still hosts the biggest VC ecosystem in Italy: 11 of the 15 most active VC firms are headquartered there. In the last 12 months, the 10 main VCs – including United Ventures, Innogest and Principia – invested €227 million between them.
Luciano Balbo, Founder of OltreVenture, one of the main impact investing funds based in Milan, explains why investment in the sector is still somewhat limited:
‘The public sector adoption of new technologies is long and complex, which makes it challenging for startups willing to introduce new solutions’.
The strength of the startups listed below shows that, despite the relative lack of actual engagement between startups and the public sector, with greater government support and appetite, Milan’s ecosystem of local companies has the potential to transform the design and delivery of many of the city’s most important public services.
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