The chemical industry in Italy generates a turnover of 53 billion euro (9.9% of total) and ranks third in the EU after Germany (29%), France (15.4%).
Chemicals Sector in Italy
ξ Italy is the third largest chemical producer in the EU. 2011 turnover was about €53 billion.
Almost 3,000 companies are active in the sector employing approximately 113,000 people.
The chemical industry in Italy generates a turnover of 53 billion euro (9.9% of total) and ranks
third in the EU after Germany (29%), France (15.4%). There are almost three thousand
companies active in the sector employing approximately 113,000 people. Italy has a strong
industrial basis and there is a large market for chemicals, which accounts for more than 64
billion euro. For many products Italy ranks second in Europe and many foreign chemical
companies have placed their strategic basis here to manage operations in Southern Europe.
The most striking feature about the Italian economic system is probably represented by the
Industrial Districts: these may be defined as an agglomerate of small and medium-sized firms,
specialised in a single-product business, concentrated in a specific geographic area. Such a
productive system makes it possible for companies to face competition maintaining their limited
There are about 200 Industrial Districts in Italy and most of them are connected with chemicals.
Enterprises from Industrial Districts are known around the world for their high quality and
innovative products. Investing in the chemical industry in Italy means taking advantage of the
opportunity to identify different clients with high propensity to risk testing new products
On the other hand, choosing Italian chemical products means enjoying the secret upon which the
success of Italian industrial districts relies.
There are three main components to the chemical industry in Italy, each playing a very important
ξ Italian SMEs;
ξ Italian medium and large (those with worldwide sales above 100 million euro) companies;
ξ Foreign owned companies.
SMEs account for 39% of the total value of production. SMEs are active in fine and specialty
chemicals where scale economies are not very relevant and the key to success often consists in
offering customers tailor made products.
There are more than 200 foreign owned companies producing in Italy employing about 37,000
people and representing 37% of the whole Italian chemical production value. Many of them also
carry out R&D work.
Medium and large companies represent 24% of the whole chemical production. Some are major
players in basic chemicals, but there are also several very dynamic medium and medium-large
Most Italian chemical companies are based in the North of Italy, close to downstream European
markets and local customer companies. Northern Italy accounts for about 76% of employment
within the industry. More than half of the total workforce is employed in Lombardy, which is the
first chemical region in Europe in terms of employees and for number of companies.
Many more large Italian chemical companies and SME’s export and turnover from exports has
grown from 18% to 47% over the past 20 years. Export performance has been positive especially
in downstream chemicals. Italy is world leader in producing active pharmaceutical ingredients
for generics and enjoys significant trade surpluses in detergents and cosmetics (1.4 billion euro
in 2011) and varnishes and adhesives (808 million euro).
R&D is very important in Italy and it has become the second, after Germany, in number of
innovative chemical companies (nearly 1,200 companies with R&D activity).
The main trade association is Federchimica (Italian Federation of the Chemical Industry) –
Research and innovation is very important in Italy and not only for Italian companies. It has been
estimated that of the 288 foreign companies producing here 72% of them carry out their R&D
activity in Italy.
Efforts to save energy and mitigate climate change are not only a challenge for the chemical
industry, but offer market opportunities in Europe and other regions. The chemical industry
offers inorganic and organic chemicals which either allow environmentally more sustainable
energy generation (solar panels), energy storage (batteries depend on chemicals) or energy
savings (insulation materials and light weight materials or tyres which reduce vehicle energy
consumption). R&D in chemistry must be fully exploited.
The chemical industry also plays an important role in the food supply chain.
Latest export opportunities in Chemicals sector
Latest export opportunities in Italy
Getting into the market
The UK Trade & Investment Team in Milan can assist UK companies wishing to present their
products and/or services to the operators in the chemical industry.
The UK Trade & Investment Team in Milan can also assist in identifying potential partners.
More about doing business in Italy
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke
market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market
Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists
in country - or contact your local international trade team.
ξ Rosy Alesi, Head of Renewables, Recycling, Industrial Products & Services, British
Consulate General, Milan Tel: +39 02 72300 214 or email: Rosie.Alesi@fco.gov.uk
ξ Elena Casalino, Trade Adviser, British Consulate General, Milan Tel: +39 (02) 72300
217 or email: Elena.Casalino@fco.gov.uk
Contact your local international trade team
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to
overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.
Latest events in Italy
Chem - Med 2013
Date: 24 - 26 September 2013 (Fieramilanocity)
Website address: http://www.fieramilano.it/en/node/20108
More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters