Xnext, Genomix4life and Osai A.S win the 3rd edition of the Open Innovative PMI award

Alessandro Dragonetti Alessandro Dragonetti

Rome, 14 November 2019 – The awarding ceremony of the “Open Innovative PMI award”, devised by Grant Thornton and dedicated to Italian innovative SMEs was held today in Rome, in the so-called Parlamentino room at The National Council for Economics and Labour.

The day opened with a conference dedicated to the topic “Private and public sector together for innovation” during which the opportunities and possible synergies between the two sectors were discussed by Alessandro Dragonetti, Head of Tax of Grant Thornton, Barbara Angelini, technologist of the National Research Council (CNR) and Giulio Greco, professor at the Department of Economics and Management of the University of Pisa and coordinator of the observatory on Innovative SMEs.

During the conference, the 3rd edition of the report by the Observatory on Innovative SMEs was also presented, drawn up by Grant Thornton with the University of Pisa and providing an overview of the trends charactering the scenario of Italian innovative SMEs.

The winners of this edition of the Award are:


  • Xnext S.r.l. for the category “Research & Technology”

Milan - Spectroscopic technology and quality control

The company deals with the development and industrial application of XSPECTRA, an own patented technology based on X-ray spectroscopic analysis which allows a real time inspection of industrially manufactured products, detecting contaminants and defects. This technology has applications in various industries: from food & beverage, to the pharmaceutical sector, from baggage security screening to waste recycling. The machines based on this technology allow to replace destructive testing carried out in laboratories by taking and examining products samples.


  • Genomix4life S.r.l. for the category “Women entrepreneurs”

Baronisi (Salerno) - Biotechnologies and healthcare

Genomix4Life S.r.l., a spin-off of Università degli Studi of Salerno, provides structural and functional genomics, bioinformatics and data storage. The main purpose of the company is the development of new diagnostic tools in the oncological field, by promoting innovation in functional genomics and bioinformatics, and defining therapeutic strategies within precision medicine.


  • Osai A. S. S.p.A. for the category “Joint stock companies” (Società per Azioni)

Parella (Torino) - Design and construction of industrial robots

The company operates in the field of automation for industrial processes. In addition to the Italian headquarter, the company has three subsidiaries in Germany, China and the US. The solutions provided are based of standard systems or on special machines for the assembly and testing of high-tech components for the semiconductor, automotive and electronic manufacturing industries.

The three companies stand out for their propensity to innovate and for their excellent economic results attained both in Italy and abroad. In addition to the formal award, they will receive professional services by Grant Thornton for a value of €10,000.

The applications received were evaluated by a free and independent panel of experts - consisting of entrepreneurs, university professors and institutional representatives – basing on two parameters in particular: the nature of innovation, in terms of ability to develop own high-tech solutions, and the economic performance, evaluated over the life of the business from its incorporation and more in detail the development dynamics after the obtainment of the innovative SME status.

The success of the Open Innovative PMI award confirms that innovative SMEs registered with the Companies’ Register published by the Ministry of Economic Development still play a strategic role within the Italian economic system - declared Alessandro Dragonetti, Head of Tax of Grant Thornton. - If, on the one hand, the increase in applications is an indicator of the sector’s dynamism, on the other hand it shows the need for an increased awareness of the advantages and opportunities that enrolling in the Register can bring.

In Italy there are about 20,000 companies with the necessary characteristics to be considered “innovative”, but just over 1,000 have enrolled in the specific Register. Yet, the law grants them access to some regulatory, tax, social security and bureaucratic facilitations provided for for Innovative Startups. Why renounce to simplifications and reduced incorporation costs, tax reliefs for both the company and its shareholders, hiring incentives and preferential access to credit?

For sure - concluded Dragonetti - this is a major driver for Italian SMEs looking to the future from a modern standpoint, which should thus be more promoted and supported. In this scenario, consultants play a major role, as they are called upon to raise their clients’ awareness on the relevance of the opportunity offered by the Ministry of Economic Development. The creation a National Innovation Fund was specifically designed, among other things, to invest in and providing funds to innovative SMEs”.

Considering the results of the Observatory for Innovative SMEs by Grant Thornton and the University of Pisa more in detail, the number of Innovative SMEs enrolled in 2019 in the Companies’ Register published on a yearly basis by the Ministry of Economic Development grew by 38%, with the majority of them operating in the services sector (70.83%), followed by manufacturing/crafts sectors (20.60%). Among Innovative SMEs are also consulting companies (6.7%).

Drawing on the results of the 2018 Report, 55% of the monitored companies show a value of production lower than one million Euro. On the other hand, the value of production grew from 2017 to 2019 for those companies with a productivity range between Euro 1,000,000 and 2,000,000. Three out of four Innovative SMEs qualify as micro enterprises, having a value of production lower than 2 million Euros.

70% of new SMEs have less than 10 employees, thus confirming the persisting granularity of the Italian business system. Only 5% of companies have more than 50 employees.

As far as the capital endowment is concerned, 71% of new SMEs have a capital lower than or equal to 100,000 Euro.

Meanwhile, the average life of the registered SMEs is high (8.43 years, compared to 7.9 years in 2018). It can be inferred, therefore, that the limited size of new SMEs is a characteristics which remains over the medium/long term.

On a regional basis, Lombardy leads the ranking as for the number of Innovative SMEs registered in 2019 (126 cases, equal to more than 29% of the total), followed in the top five by Emilia Romagna (54 cases), Piedmont (39 cases), Lazio and Campania (31) and Veneto (26).

A provincial-level analysis confirms the data above: the province of Milan ranks first for number of new SMEs registered between 2018 and 2019 (79), followed by Rome (29 companies), Turin (23), Naples (14), Bologna (8) and Pisa (7).

As concerns the ownership structure, the Innovative SMEs Report shows that more than 50% of new SMEs registered in 2019 are owned by Italian male adults. Young owners are recorded only in 11.34% of cases and women only in 7.83% of companies examined. 67% of companies with young entrepreneurs employ less than 10 people, against 44% of companies lead by women.

The second part of the Report - dedicated to the analysis of economic-financial data of Innovative SMEs - shows that a company out of three (30.30%) falls within the turnover range from 1 to 5 million Euro, whereas 38.05% of them report a turnover lower than 1 million. 17% of the companies attained in 2018 a turnover lower that 100,000 Euro, whereas 38% of them less than 1 million Euro. The average increase in turnover (2018 vs 2017) is equal to 50.82%, even if one fifth of companies recorded lower levels than 2017.

The average EBITDA (ability to generate operating profits) value is equal to 488,000 Euro and 74.74% of companies show a positive result. In 58% of cases EBIT (gross operating margin net of amortisations, depreciations and provisions) is positive in companies with a turnover range over 500,000€.

From the point of view of organisational and managerial profiles, in 84% of Innovative SMEs the roles of Chairman and Managing Director coincide, thus indicating a low level of structured governance of innovative SMEs. Generally speaking, the average number of shareholders is equal to 7.1 (up of one percentage point compared to 2018), but in companies with over 5 million turnover, the shareholders’ participation decreases to 4.2.

As far as the internationalisation level is concerned, it is worth noting that only 12.5% of the companies analysed own holdings in foreign companies with a concentration in turnover ranges over 1 million Euros.

The “Open Innovative PMI” Conference, Award and Observatory are part of a wider project aimed at promoting Italian innovation giving visibility to this specific category of companies, key to the Italian business scenario, yet not so well known. The initiative actually aims at supporting the development of Innovative SMEs, promoting the knowledge of tax, corporate and financial benefits available under the regulation in force and dedicated exclusively to innovative SMES duly registered in the dedicated section of the Companies’ Register held by the Chamber of Commerce.