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Defence Innovation: New Models and Procurement Implications. The Italian Case


In Italy, defence innovation takes place mainly within major procurement programmes in the aerospace, naval and land sectors. This links technological innovation to specific capabilities, as well as with the needs of the single military services. Conversely, the funds of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which are formally dedicated to basic research are extremely limited. The latest defence White Paper (2015) envisaged significant reforms partly to improve defence innovation and procurement, but they have not been implemented yet. In 2020, the Chief of Defence’s Strategic Concept outlined an ambitious vision for technological innovation centred on digital technologies and on a wider opening to both SMEs and the broader civilian industry. Such vision would require stable investments in the mid-to-long term, which the current Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini aims to establish by going beyond the yearly defence budget allocation. However, it has yet to be seen if, how, and when these politico-military intentions will translate to policy. Meanwhile, Italian defence innovation and procurement are going to be increasingly influenced by the European Defence Fund (EDF). Indeed, the EDF provides Italian companies with the opportunity to access a robust budget on specific research agendas and triggers the creation of a European consortium able to move from research and development to the procurement phase. As such, it is deemed very important by both the defence industry and the armed forces which are likely to adjust and align their respective research agendas to exploit EU opportunities.