The Italian pharmaceutical industry is technologically advanced, with a strong leadership position in Europe and beyond.

A sector that has seen strong growth in recent years and is capable of standing out for its high investment in research and development: how can we look to the future after a year in which the industry has proved to be a fundamental asset?

settore farmaceutico/Italian pharmaceutical industry 2

First, let us consider some data relating to the size and potential of the sector: as reported by Farmindustria – which brings together the main industry players- the Italian pharmaceutical industry can boast production of over 34 billion Euros. Added to this is a marked vocation for exports, with an increase of 58% over the three-year period 2017-2019: growth rises to 168% if we look at the last ten years, making Italy, together with Germany, the leading nation in Europe in this field. In 2019, Italian pharmaceutical exports accounted for around 6.2% of the national total.

More than 66,500 people contribute to these results, rising to 146,000 if indirect employees are considered: a number that has increased rapidly in five years thanks to the sector’s dynamism and investment policies. More than 70% of the workforce is employed in companies with more than 250 employees, compared with 24% of the manufacturing average. Another element testifying to the vitality of the pharmaceutical sector is research and development expenditure, which stands at EUR 1.6 billion.

Of this, more than EUR 700 million is earmarked for clinical research, actively contributing to improving the services offered by the Italian healthcare system. The year 2020 has shown unequivocally that health protection must remain a priority. This is why, together with the medical devices sector, pharmaceuticals will continue to play a fundamental role for our country, providing concrete solutions to improve the quality of life for all.

What strategies are available to companies to make this possible?

As highlighted in a report published by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti in collaboration with Luiss Business School and EY, the sector stands out for its resilience, tested by the pandemic shock of 2020. Successive closures over the months have caused delays and production stoppages, highlighting the need for increasingly structured partnerships along the value chain to ensure business continuity.

There is also a need to drive innovation through targeted policies: public policy measures are essential in this respect, encouraging the development of highly effective medicines and therapies that meet patients’ needs.

Product innovation must also be accompanied by process innovation through the use of new technologies: Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are also proving to be crucial in this field. Their use could, for example, make clinical trials more effective by using large quantities of demographic data, while AI would make it possible to develop predictive models with which to improve drug administration methods.

Another way forward is certainly to build strategic partnerships between companies in the sector, to reduce risks, strengthen presence in international markets and better meet a demand that in the years to come will be oriented towards increasingly specific solutions. The identification and selection of the right partners could enable Italian pharmaceutical companies to develop new, highly innovative solutions.

To this end, it could be particularly useful to map the reference markets in order to identify new partners with whom to establish profitable relationships: an activity that involves careful monitoring to identify the best counterparts within a highly complex sector.

Ultimately, an in-depth study of the scenario and the integration of digital solutions into processes is also a priority for companies in the pharmaceutical sector: only in this way will it be possible to maintain their competitiveness while continuing to provide an essential service to entire communities.