Dozens of Israeli biotech firms and investors will meet in Milan with their Italian counterparts next fall, the Italian Trade Agency announced last week.
According to Massimiliano Guido, head of the Italian Trade Agency Office in Tel Aviv, “Today we witness a mutual exchange of technological know how between our two countries. Italy, being an important scientific and technological partner to Israel, brings a great potential for a synergy based on an optimal use of bilateral advantages. The connection between Italy and Israel, especially in the Biomed field, allows to compete successfully in international markets.”
It’s a return invitation for the hospitality shown Italian biotech firms last May, who attended the 14th IATI Biomed Edition, sponsored by the Israel Advanced Technology Industries umbrella group. During that three-day event, Italian biotech firms including Aptuit, Cyanagen, and Menarini Biotech, as well as officials from the University of Palermo and Intesa San Paolo, one of the largest Italian banking groups, met with Israeli firms and investors, with the objective of further strengthening the ties between the biomed industries in both countries.
“The Italian biotechnology industry is highly dynamic; by the end of 2014 there were 384 biotech companies in Italy,” said Guido. “The Italian biotech industry is third in Europe, following Germany and the UK. The extent of its financial activity is estimated by over 7 million euro annually.”
Several years ago, the Italian government implemented reforms encouraging more Italian firms to invest in start-ups – and working with and learning from start-ups is a major reason many Italian biotech firms are interested in Israel, according to Marina Scognamiglio of Bracco Imaging, one of the world’s largest imaging technology firms. Italian biotech firms “want to invest here, and some want to build collaborations. In any event, we see Israel as a perfect match for our life sciences industry.”
Italy and Israel have much to offer companies that collaborate, said Scognamiglio. “In 2012 the governments of Israel and Italy signed a tech cooperation agreement, with a fund that will go to assisting companies that work together. That agreement is something no other European country has with the Israeli government. And of course Israeli companies that partner with Italian companies have greater access to the EU’s large markets.”
The cooperation between Israel and Italy in the life sciences area really paid off for Italy recently, said Scognamiglio. “Israel was very helpful to Italy during the major earthquake in the north of the country in 2012,” Scognamiglio said, describing the two devastating earthquakes that struck the Emilia-Romagna region. Over two dozen people were killed in those quakes, and there was widespread damage.
Many of Italy’s life science companies call the region home. “Some of those killed and injured were life science workers, and many of the plants and R&D facilities were badly damaged,” said Scognamiglio.
Israeli companies rode in to the rescue, helping to reconstruct the R&D facilities. It’s a little known story in Israel, but Italians will be forever grateful for the help Israel rendered, Scognamiglio said. “All of our companies are back in production now,” she added. “It shows you the power of cooperation and collaboration.”