Liguria International: A fertile land - Edoardo Rixi

Liguria International, which was established in 2002, is a subsidiary of the Finanziaria Ligure per lo Sviluppo Economico group, and partly owned by the four chambers of commerce in Liguria. It is key in implementing regional policies and coordinating players in the local economic system. Finance Director Europe speaks to Edoardo Rixi, minister of economic development of Regione Liguria, about the region's development into a powerful area for business and trade.

Could you please give us a brief description of Liguria?

Edoardo Rixi: Liguria's economy is finding a new identity by balancing industry with innovation and tourism. The region is a highly appreciated tourist destination on the Italian Riviera and can be enjoyed from every view in all seasons.

The destination maximises its natural resources, such as wine, food and majestic mountains. Liguria maintains a strong tradition of trade through its ports, but with modern professionalism that matures with each generation.

Liguria is a top region for exports, though margins can still be improved. We wish to take advantage of professions linked to the sea by promoting development, fostering international relationships, and eliminating rigidity and inefficiency.

This would help Liguria compete with Northern European ports, which currently attract much of the traffic that would make more sense geographically to travel via Liguria. The Po River Valley and the Alpine Arc starting in Switzerland are good examples. We already have close dialogue with Swiss stakeholders.

Liguria preserves its manufacturing identity through innovation and research, which is in large part due to the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) being situated in the region's capital of Genoa. The institute is a vital to the area's boom in enterprise and innovative patents. We have invested €15 million through Filse-Ligurcapital, the financial company of Regione Liguria, in an innovative start-up that will soon produce graphene in Genoa.

For many, the region is seen as a tourist destination. How has Liguria tried to change this opinion to showcase that it is also a great business destination?

Liguria will not neglect its touristic appeal. On the contrary, we wish to bring out its value and make it better known for its many attractive qualities that are less salient to the public at large. At the same time, we wish to attract new companies to invest in the area as Liguria is set to become the California of Italy: a good place to work, do business and explore landscapes of extraordinary beauty.

We are increasing airport connections with major European capitals and adding infrastructure to make the region more attractive to global companies. Genoa's airport is still undersized, but it has great potential, and this is being realised. Direct flights to the Netherlands and Russia have opened up very important markets for us. Volotea, the low-cost Spanish airline with ambitious investment plans, has arrived in the area and it may choose Genoa as a major hub on its Mediterranean routes, with many connections to the capitals of other Italian regions.

How does Liguria support global companies planning to invest in the region? What different services can it provide?

At the end of 2015, we launched the Growth Act, which provides a new vision for development. The idea for growth includes simplifying processes for companies, attracting new investment and providing more efficient services for citizens. The Growth Act will provide €272 million through reducing the IRAP tax, instituting a regional strategy fund and helping companies access European bids and completing administrative procedures.

In our first seven months in power, we have helped local companies overcome the difficulties associated with the economic crisis and the new rules imposed on the European banking system. Taking advantage of the European Por Fesr funds, we have activated Tranched Cover, a fund which makes €80 million of resources available to small companies. Access to credit is the first step to strengthening the regional economy. This must be done while incentivising companies to focus on innovation. Recently, we have launched competitions with €10 million in prizes for companies that show innovative production techniques and focus on research.

What other steps are being taken to increase investment in the region?

The total exemption from the IRAP tax is our most important policy to support companies in Liguria and attract investment from abroad. The exemption lightens the fiscal burden for companies born in 2016. It will be valid for five years for companies that move to the region and create development and jobs. The exemption will be extended to start-ups and for those companies that win the previously mentioned competitions.

How has the internationalisation plan helped attract international businesses to invest in Liguria?

The regional government recently approved the 2016 plan that targets the internationalisation of Ligurian companies. The plan aims to promote the food and agriculture sectors, flower growing, artisanal crafts, technology, the sea economy and international missions. The goal is to increase the value of Ligurian production, focus on innovation and promote quality to reboot the Ligurian economy and increase the market share of our companies. In addition to the artisanal and food and agriculture sectors, the internationalisation plan, run by Liguria International, foresees the promotion of the sea economy, which has a 9% share of our regional economy and provides jobs for approximately 13% of Ligurians.

To promote Ligurian companies, we are organising visits to the area's olive oil, wine, ceramics and flower-growing factories to introduce foreign operators to our production lines. We also wish to accompany our small companies - which constitute 98% of the region's economy - to make a global name for themselves. Liguria has built contacts with the representative institutions of many foreign countries - including Russia. A few weeks ago, we sent a delegation to Moscow, as we believe that it is a market with great potential. The Russians expressed interest in Ligurian products and calculated good margins for expanding their businesses into the region.

Icub is a humanoid robot developed at the Italian Institute of Technology.
The port in Genoa is being developed to reflect the tradition of the trade route and the modernity to cater to future market needs.