The “Study on firm-level drivers of export performance and external competitiveness in Italy”, in partnership with MET, was developed as part of a research project for the European Commission, DG Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN).
This is a study on Italy’s international competitiveness based on firm-level data aimed at providing policy recommendations that the European Commission will submit to the Italian government.
This report provides an in-depth study on the main firm-level drivers of corporate external competitiveness in Italy during the years of the recent crisis. In this sense, it contributes to the debate on the appraisal of the Italian international position by presenting granular evidences based on a large set of elaborations taking advantage both of the ISTAT ‘Rapporto sulla competitività’ micro-dataset and of the MET sample survey database (an original firm-level database with more than 120,000 observations).
Overall, our results confirm the high degree of heterogeneity of the Italian system and the well-known differences between internationalised and domestic companies in terms of structural, behavioural and performance dimensions. In particular, data highlight not only the strict correlation between internationalisation and innovative activities but also a change of attitude of Italian firms towards these strategies that started during the recession. When the analysis digs deeper into these correlations, econometric estimates controlling for firm-specific heterogeneities confirm the role of R&D and innovation in helping the company to penetrate foreign markets, while productivity turns out to be a key factor only for remaining and improving the performance on the international environment. On balance, then, the analyses show that, whilst structural factors play a key role for external competitiveness, there are also other fundamental firm-level aspects triggering superior performances. In particular, a non-negligible part of heterogeneity stems from strategical profiles, technological capabilities and ‘proactive’ behaviours. To this extent, our policy suggestions focus on the need to sustain and foster innovative activities to improve aggregate competitiveness.
Research Team:
Rossi Doria Centre’s Research Team: Anna Giunta (Università Roma Tre); Lelio Iapadre (Università dell’Aquila); Mario Pianta (Università of Urbino “Carlo Bo”); Stefano Usai (University of Cagliari); Antonello Zanfei (University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”).
Other Researchers: Emanuele Brancati (LUISS Guido Carli); Raffaele Brancati (MET); Dario Guarascio (INAPP), Andrea Maresca (MET), ; Manuel Romagnoli (MET).

  • Download Final Report 
  • Working paper in European Economy, Discussion Paper seires, EU Commission soon available.