Italian Biotech Industry 2022

The new report on the Italian biotech industry, prepared thanks to the consolidated cooperation between Assobiotec (Italian Association for the Development of Biotechnology, part of Federchimica) and ENEA (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), is being released after an emergency situation for the country. Gathering, processing and analysing the information and the updated estimates provided by the companies’ activities in this field at the end of 2021, by the 2020 financial statements, public data and by the National Statistical System, this report, by its nature, cannot include any element related to the coronavirus pandemic which has hit the country and the entire world.

On the other hand, the report on the Italian biotech industry shows a detailed snapshot of the whole sector that stands out for its wealth of information. Furthermore, it provides the basis for an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats for the sector. It is for this reason that we need to take a closer look at the Italian biotech field and the related R&D activities, moving on to the in-depth analysis of two macro areas: the healthcare field, made up of diagnostic, vaccine prevention and therapeutical solutions and the bioeconomy which includes agriculture, veterinary, industry and environment. The data observed by the National Statistics Programme will flow into the industrial biotech statistics developed by OECD - The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, from which the report borrows the methodology, setting a solid base to develop programmes for a more sustainable and better future.

The picture that emerges from the new Report, is that of a sector that, despite the pandemic crisis, remains vital with over 13 thousand employees and a total turnover volume of over 10 billion. The number of companies, after a slight decline at the end of 2020, less than 1% (at a general level the decline in companies was more than double in the same year), has, in fact, returned to growth in 2021, exceeding with 790 companies. It means the level reached at the end of 2019.



The growth concerned all areas of application of biotechnology, in particular, Italian-controlled R&D dedicated biotechnologies companies, driven by those with  prevalent application in industrial biotechnology with a + 9% of companies between 2019 and 2020. The sector is characterized by small and micro enterprises that represent just over 82% of the total.

The turnover in 2020, the year in which the impact of the health emergency linked to Covid-19 was maximum, shows a substantial resilience, about three-quarters of the total turnover is produced by the health sector, a considerable 17% is given by the industry and environment sector.

Companies mainly active in the field of human health continue to represent the majority share of the total number of Italian biotechnology companies (48.5%).

The share of companies with prevalent application in industrial biotechnology and biotechnology for agriculture and animal husbandry continues to grow (respectively +29% and +34.5% between 2014 and 2021).

The 2022 report has two specific sections, the first dedicated to the innovative start up (D.L. 179/2012) and the latter to the patents.

The number of innovative start-ups active in biotechnology has grown over time, reaching just 29% of the total in 2021. Young innovative companies represent an important bridge between the basic research of universities and research centres and consolidated companies. They also play an active role in the development of new products and processes, not only in the pharmaceutical supply chain, but also in industrial biotechnology and agro-zootechnical.

Regarding the patents, the global share of PCT biotech patent applications (by assignee country and by priority date 2018) is given for over 60% by the USA, China, Japan. The Italian biotech production system occupies the 14th position in the world (in 2018), up from the 18th occupied in 2013. In Italy the contribution of universities, research institutions and hospitals is significant. Technology transfer activities, especially for science-based sectors such as biotechnology, represent a fundamental element in the overall national innovation system.

To sum up, the Italian biotech sector continues to grow in all its main economic indicators and to be research-intensive, experiencing a consolidation phase in terms of number of firms.


Download Italian Biotech Report 2022