Biotechnology in Italy: a strategic sector with a turnover of 13 billion euros.

In Lombardy, Lazio, Tuscany, and Piedmont, over 90% of the turnover, 80% of in-house R&D investments, and 80% of employees are concentrated. The weight of biotechnologies for healthcare is a priority, accounting for 74% of the total.

More than 800 companies, 13,700 employees, over 13 billion euros in estimated revenue in 2022, and a market that shows growth across various variables, highlighting a resilient, dynamic, and strategically important sector for the country’s development.

These findings emerge from the updated Enea-Assobiotec report, “Biotechnology Companies in Italy,” now in its 8th edition.

According to the new report, the sector experienced significant revenue growth in 2021, with expectations of continued growth in 2022. In this regard, the weight of biotechnologies in healthcare remains a priority, accounting for 74% of the total. However, over the past two years, applications in the bioeconomy sector (industry and agriculture) have shown substantial expansion, with growth rates exceeding 30% for both application areas in the 2021-2022 biennium. This segment now represents more than a quarter of Italy’s biotech revenue, accounting for over 25% of the total in 2021 and continuing to grow in 2022.

In numerical terms, as summarized in an Enea press release, the population of active businesses in Italy experienced a slight contraction in 2020, primarily attributed to a decrease in the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which were more affected by the immediate impact of the pandemic, especially those with fewer than 10 employees. The numerical data rebounded in 2021, and growth is expected for all size categories in 2022, totaling 823 companies.

While the activity of biotech companies remains predominantly focused on human health (just under 50%), there has been an expansion in the shares of companies developing biotechnological applications for industry, the environment, agriculture, and animal husbandry between 2014 and 2021. These sectors have demonstrated their significant role in the bioeconomy.

In terms of company size, the percentage of micro or small-sized enterprises exceeds 82% of the total, while large enterprises (with over 250 employees) account for just under 8% of the entire population under analysis.

Regionally, strong polarization persists, particularly in economic variables. The top 4 regions (Lombardy, Lazio, Tuscany, and Piedmont) represent over 90% of the revenue, 80% of in-house R&D investments, and 80% of employees. However, this percentage drops to 52% when considering the number of companies. Lombardy remains the leading region, followed by Lazio and Tuscany, which are highly specialized in healthcare applications. Northern regions, in general, exhibit a marked specialization in biotechnology applications for industrial processes.

In the southern part of Italy, which represents approximately 20% in terms of the number of companies, Campania (just under 8%) and Puglia (just over 4%) stand out.