CDP Venture Capital SGR, through the Fondo Acceleratori, is building a National Accelerators Network throughout Italy. What is the peculiarity of this programme, compared to other initiatives in support of innovation?
“The main objective of the Fondo Acceleratori is to develop a connected network of vertical accelerators", says Stefano Molino, Fund manager, “and it is precisely the focus on vertical sectors that will allow us to overcome one of the typical limits of accelerators, which are often generalist or too local.”
The Fondo Acceleratori, on the other hand, aims to create a specialised entity capable of feeding a virtuous network among its participants, namely, startups, innovative SMEs, Italian and international accelerators, large companies, as well as universities, research centres and institutional sponsors.
“The issue of resources is only one of the elements for the success of a startup”, continues Molino. “It is also necessary to give it real market opportunities, thanks to a network of competent players.”
Starting from the country’s industrial districts.
Industrial districts play a key role in the Italian economic fabric: businesses focused on a specific sector have traditionally cooperated, connecting with one another first and foremost through geographical proximity and creating a unique ecosystem of expertise and human capital.
Hence the idea of working with highly specialised players already present in the territory, to encourage the exchange between startups and corporates.
Because partners make their expertise available, but at the same time acquire new skills from startups, powering a value creation circuit.
“We want each of these accelerators to go beyond the local area", underlines Molino, “and be able to become the national reference point for Italian startups, and potentially also European ones that intend to establish themselves in Italy.”
This is the aim pursued by the Motor Valley Accelerator, the programme dedicated to the mobility sector and located in the Modena district, created with the support of CRIT and Plug and Play.
Or WeSportUP, the accelerator focused on sport and health - topics that are more relevant than ever today - launched in Rome together with Sport e Salute and Startupbootcamp, whose call is already open to collect applications from the best startups and SMEs operating in the sports sector.
Or yet the new startup accelerator in the Fintech and Insurtech fields, in Milan, focused on innovation in the payment, banking and insurance sectors, which has already seen the participation of SIA in the dual role of investor and industrial partner.
Are there strategic reasons behind the choice of a specific industry?
Without a doubt, considering mega-trends is a central aspect: one need only think of the technological transformations in the automotive sector, or the boom in digital payments and digital services in the financial sector.
However, it is not the only factor to evaluate.
“We have to choose areas where implementing acceleration programmes in Italy makes sense”, says Molino, “considering, therefore, the already existing skills, and making reference to significant industrial sectors where the innovation theme is particularly relevant.”
Hence sectors where there are specialised players, but also interested investors and where startups can find the right conditions to access skills, but also market opportunities, in order to grow.
Therefore, we are speaking of integration, connection, interaction.
“Over the next two years, the network will grow considerably and will come to include 20 accelerators”, explains Molino. “Existing accelerators will also be involved, which will be able to acquire new skills, face new challenges and cultivate new talents in order to launch new programmes.'’
The idea is to aggregate the ecosystem players through coordination, rather than dispersing resources in many small initiatives.
Because it is not (only) a question of increasing the quantity of projects to be supported, but (also) their quality, overcoming the limits of Italian startups, which are often small, little capitalised and not very connected to the world of large corporations.
The latter, in turn, will necessarily have to open up to dialogue: it is also from a change of vision in the entrepreneurial culture that innovation can find the right breeding ground.
Furthermore, creating a single national network of accelerators, coordinated by CDP, represents an important opportunity to combine two central elements to do innovation: on the one hand, the specialisation of skills and human capital, on the other hand, the sharing and interaction between businesses from different sectors, in order to identify new solutions that can also arise from areas that deviate significantly from those to which they belong: this is an extraordinary opportunity for corporate partners joining the network.