In February 2017 LEIGIA – a research centre about Firm Economics of Germany, Italy and Austria – was established at the Department of Economics and Business of the University of Parma. The main objectives of this centre are:
- to compare enterprises in the three countries, underlining the different institutional framework where they move;
- to compare the role and characteristics of the different industrial policies (at the national and sub-national level);
- to analyze (and to foster) non-equity cooperation between companies from the three different countries;
- to analyze (and to foster) equity integration between companies from the three different countries.
LEIGIA comes from EmiliaLab, a joint initiative of the Departments of Economics of Ferrara, Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia.
The hypotheses underlying the LEIGIA creation (and therefore the basis of its research objectives) stem first of all from the factors which, according to microeconomic analyses, explain the competitiveness and the success of German and Austrian firms in exporting:
- the intense innovative activity (favored by the size of enterprises, their sectoral positioning, the importance given to human capital and workers’ level of education);
- their ability to compete on quality in product areas characterized by an average technology content;
- their success in lowering unit production costs thanks to productivity gains (due to technical and organizational progress) and wide use of global value chains;
- the impact on these variables of the organization advantage deriving from Mitbestimmung (co-decision approach);
- a corporate governance model influenced by the positive effects of family ownership;
- the proactive impact of industrial policies at the national and regional (Länder) level, spreading transformations made possible by technology (in Germany before Energiewende, then Industrie 4.0).
However these features do not seem to differ from the most dynamic part of the Italian enterprise system.
In particular, the most successful Italian enterprises are characterized by:
- an intense innovative activity that seems low-profile according to the standard R&D indicators, but that is particularly trenchant in terms of effects on quality, functional and aesthetic features of the product;
- a sound ability to modify some characteristics of the product on the basis of purchaser demand, also because of the diffusion of family ownership;
- a smaller size of the firms, often balanced by an attitude to establishing cooperative links with other productive subjects (districts and networks);
- a high trained workforce, often irrespective of the achieved levels of school education;
- a leadership positioning in the high quality (and high price) niches of final consumer goods and in the case of several intermediate and investment goods (mechanics in the first place).
Moreover, there is an increasing presence of companies of these countries in the global value chains, albeit accompanied by an interesting difference: for example the larger German firms are closer to the final demand, while in the same global value chain the Italian companies mainly operate within it, or in percentage the latter operate more as suppliers of intermediate goods. It is not difficult to identify here the presence of significant synergies.
How the LEIGIA is expected to work: study, research and convention
As these features seem all contiguous, it is useful and interesting to trigger a study and research activity (including conferences) between the EmiliaLab’s affiliated departments, localized in Parma. It involves the EmiliaLab’s researchers and, possibly, German and Austrian researchers, dealing with:
- comparison of companies’ performance and industrial policies of these countries;
- cooperation phenomena within the same global value chains;
- equity integration processes between companies, with the focus to provide in the future useful services to their performance.
Analysis and comparison are not limited to business conduct, but also concern the engagement and the results of policy makers. It is worthwhile to emphasize such issue, especially now that digitalisation of the economy is a common goal for these countries and reduces the economic sense of offshoring in the company’s accounts, if this is exclusively aimed at a lower supply cost of the product.
 The Italian acronym means “Laboratorio sull’Economia delle Imprese di Germania, Italia ed Austria”