Innovation policy and industry 4.0: new evidence from the Italian automotive supply chain

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Brussels (2023)


automotive supply chain; financial constraints; innovation; industry 4.0; tax shield


This work focuses on an innovation policy (i.e., Calenda 4.0), which was introduced by the Italian government with the budget law of 2017 (i.e., Legge 11 dicembre 2016, n. 232), within a strategic planning for the next four years (i.e., 2017-2020). The main target of this policy was to foster the fourth industrial revolution, creating a set of incentives able to pull Italian firms toward the adoption of new technologies in their production and operative processes. In detail, the set of incentives was structured to support investments in smart technologies, large-scale machine-to-machine communication systems, and the internet of things (IoT). The final results of such investments would concern a higher level automation with an improved system of communication and self-monitoring, reducing significantly the need for human intervention. Among the incentives created by the policy maker, there were the following: higher contributions on financial interests paid by firms for investments in industry 4.0 (+30%), and granting of public guarantee on external financial resources collected on the capital market (up to 80% of bank loans) through the Central Guarantee Fund (i.e., Fondo Centrale di Garanzia). These incentives were created exclusively for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in compliance to the “de minimis” rule. Indeed, SMEs are the firms with higher difficulties in collecting external financial resources on the capital market due to their size. Then, considering tax shield, the policy maker introduced a hyper-depreciation of investments in industry 4.0 (250%), and super-depreciation of investments in other assets (120-140%); as well as tax relief on incremental investments in R&D (50%). All firms had access to this second set of incentives.
This paper proposes an empirical study with the aim of investigating whether the Calenda 4.0 has decreased financial constraints of SMEs, supporting their access to the external financial resources, as well as it has improved their profitability. At the best of our knowledge, this is the first study with empirical insights on such innovation policy, and we can give a significant contribution to the current literature on policy analysis. Moreover, the collected evidence can support the policy maker in this sensitive field (i.e., innovation and financial constraints), fostering new interventions.

Hypotheses, data and method
According to the proposed background, this work tests whether the incentives created by the aforementioned innovation policy (Calenda 4.0) have a positive impact on corporate finance, assuming that the collaterals provided by the state decreased the expected insolvency risk. In detail, we test whether SMEs with access to the incentives created by Calenda 4.0 report lower difficultness in collecting external financial resources on the capital market(H1). Accordingly, the control group of this investigation is represented by SMEs with no access to these incentives. Afterwards, considering the whole population of firms in our dataset and recalling the second set of incentives (i.e., more favorable depreciation and tax relief), we test whether higher financial performances exist for those firms with access to the incentives created by Calenda 4.0 (H2). Hence, these hypotheses focus on the corporate finance of these firms, investigating whether the Calenda 4.0 had a positive impact on the access to external financial resources, and then their financial performance.
Authors test the proposed hypothesis considering the Italian automotive supply chain in 2019 and 2020, adopting a unique dataset with an initial sample of more than 400 entities. This dataset contains key information on financial constraints, innovation and access to Calenda 4.0, which have been extracted from a survey proposed by the “Observatory on the Italian Automotive Supply Chain”. Afterwards, these information have been merged with economic and administrative data of these firms (source: AIDA), data on their expected solvency (source: Ceris Rating). The automotive supply chain is an environment characterized by considerable uncertainty and need for innovation, due to the current green policies and new regulations adopted by policy makers. Moreover, this supply chain is mainly characterized by the presence of small and medium enterprises, whose access to the local capital market is often limited owing to their size. For these reasons, the automotive supply chain is a good candidate to test the proposed hypotheses, showing the impact of such policy on firms’ access to the capital market.

Preliminary results
According to results, the access to incentives decreased the perceived difficultness in collecting external financial resources (i.e., odds ratio < 1, which are all statistically significant). In detail, according to the models, SMEs with access to the innovation policy have 0.832-0.866 times lower difficulties in funding their innovative proposals. Results are robust to several checks, suggesting the appropriateness of our evidence. Hence, according to the collected evidence, we cannot reject H1 since the access to the incentives created by Calenda 4.0 have decreased the perceived financial constraints, increasing SMEs’ access to the capital market to fund their investments.
Afterwards, considering the whole population of firms, we verify whether the adopted more favorable fiscal policy (i.e., higher depreciation and tax relief), improved the profitability of firms. According to results, the odds to have a positive profit is 2.436-3.433 times if the firm adopted the proposed fiscal incentives. Then, focusing on those firms with a positive profit, results suggest that firms with access to these incentives have higher financial performance (i.e., positive coefficients, which are statistically significant – p-value < 0.01). Hence, according to the collected evidence, we cannot reject H2 since the access to the fiscal incentives created by Calenda 4.0 have increased probability to obtain a positive profit, as well as higher financial performance.

Preliminary conclusions
This work focuses on the innovation policy “Calenda 4.0” and, according to results, we can support the appropriateness of this interventions. Indeed, the policy has been able to decrease the financial constraints of innovative SMEs, fostering their investments in innovation, as well as to increase their financial performance.

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