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Italy: discovering the sectors of excellence

Italy is 8th biggest world economy and the 4th biggest economy in Europe, with the second largest manufacturing base in Europe (after Germany) and with a strong integration in the EU value chain. This beautiful country is a world leader in many important economic sectors: construction and infrastructure, capital goods, design, pharmaceuticals, biomedical products and aerospace technologies.

Along the centuries Italy has been able to combine tradition and innovation, through manufacturing processes focused on quality, human relations, respectful of the environment, of a given life style and consumption in particular a sustainable use of resources. 

According to the Trade Performance Index, Italy is among the 5 top countries worldwide with a trade surplus in the manufacturing sector exceeding 100 billion dollars, and among the Top 100 luxury goods companies in the world, 24 are based in Italy (first country worldwide). Over 2/3 out of these 24 companies operate in the «clothing and footwear» sectors. We review below the main points of excellence of the Italian economy.


More than 345,000 Italian companies (about a quarter of the total) invest in the green economy, that is to say in products and green technologies aimed at reducing the environmental impact, saving energy and containing CO2 emissions. We are the 1st country in Europe for turnover per-capita in the field of products developed with biological processes (like bioplastics). Italy is, along with Germany, the leading country in Europe for secondary raw material recycled in the manufacturing industry.

Italian performance draws its strength from the very essence of the “Made in Italy”, capable of creating economic value from intangible assets such as design, innovation and quality.

Italy ranks 1st among the top five EU economies with the highest percentage of recycled waste (including urban, industrial and mineral) and
efficient waste reduction: 43.2 tons per million euros produced. For every kilogram of resource consumed, our country generates (according to the purchasing power) 4€ of GDP.


Italy ranks 1st in Europe for share of renewable energy in the gross domestic consumption (17.4%), ahead of Spain (17.3%), France 16%), Germany (14.8%).

Italy is also the fourth biogas world producer – following Germany, China and The United States – with about 1,920 operational facilities, with a total of around 1,400 MW installed.


In Italy 30,828 companies work actively in the design field, which corresponds to 16% of the European total, a value that turns Italy into the leading country in terms of business density at national level.

Italy shows remarkable competitive skills in the design field compared to the other main EU countries. Milan has one of the highest concentrations of design schools in the world and more than 25% of companies working in the field of design.

In Italy the design industry employs over 50,000 people, 16.6% of total number of design workers in Europe.


Italy is 2nd in the world for trade surplus: about 10 bn preceded only by China (85.3 billion) but ahead of Poland (9.7 billion), Mexico (6.8 billion), Vietnam (5.2 billion) and Germany (-3.5 billion).

Italy is also the first European exporting country in this sector: 30% of the total EU exports.


The fashion industry represents 10% of the Italian manufacturing. The fashion segment (textile, clothing, footwear) produces an added value of 24.2 billion euros.

“Made in Italy” is a fashion industry leader in Europe, both in terms of productions and of generated added value: 33.9% of the added value
generated by the fashion industry comes from Italy.

About 70% of Italian fashion exports (about 51 billion euros) come from ‘haute couture’, holding significant market shares: 16% in footwear and 21% in leather goods.


Italy is among the first 10 global exporters in the agri-food sector (first industry/sector of the country) with an added value per hectare higher than the other EU countries.

The food industry is one of the undisputed leading sectors of the Italian economy. The Italian food industry offers the highest standards in terms of safety and quality, combining both innovation and tradition.

The most exported food products are: wines and sparkling wines, fresh and dried fruit and vegetables, pasta, dairy products. Wine is the most exported product, 20% of processed products’ exports.

With over 200,000 companies, Italy holds almost a third of the Protected Designations of Origin in the world (822 out of approx. 3,000) amounting to €15 billion in production and €8.8 bn in exports.

Italy is the 1st European country for agri-food products recognized by the European Union as Geographical Indications and Designations of


Machineries is the first sector of Italian export (18% of total exports). Italy is the fifth country in the world for machineries’ exports and among the top world leaders in trade surplus for its high technological standards.


Italy ranks among the first countries with the highest percentage of industrial robots used in the automotive industry (9% of companies
compared to a 7% European average).

Italy is an example of innovation in the sustainable mobility sector (in 2019 rechargeable cars registration accounted for 1.1% of the market).


Italy ranks 1st in the world for superyachts production (45.7% of the superyachts’ world orders) with 268 boats under construction in 2019 out of a total of 621 globally.

In pleasure boating, Italy is unrivaled. We are world leaders in terms of trade balance, with revenues just under two billion dollars (1.9), ahead of the Netherlands (1.7 billion), the United kingdom (831 million), Germany (792 million) and Mexico (689).


Italy is the 1st country for medicines/drugs production in the EU.


70% of the worldwide historic heritage is in Italy, which is the country holding the record for UNESCO Sites thanks to 55 sites in the 2019 list. In 2018, there were 123 million tourist arrivals in Italy with 426 million overnight stays.

Furthermore, Italy is the 2nd European country for number of overnight stays of non-EU tourists. In 2019, the most visited UNESCO Site was the city center of Matera.

The Cultural and Creative Industry (CCI) employs more than 1.55 milion workers (6.1% of the total). CCI exports represent 14% of the total (62 billion euro).

The driving sectors are: software (12%), design (4.3%), performing arts (2.5%), communication (1.2%) and promotion of the historic and artistic heritage.

In the audiovisual industry Italy is among the top 10 countries in the world for added value and third in Europe for productivity.

Thanks to a deep knowledge of the market and the Italian language, the staff of Malta Business Agency can guarantee you the best support to invest in Italy. For info and advice please contact our offices by filling out the following form.


This article provides general information only and does not replace professional advice in any way. It is recommended to consult a qualified professional before making any important decisions regarding financial, legal or other matters. The author and the publication are not responsible for any errors or damages caused by the use of the information contained in this article.

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