In recent years, there has been a surge of young Italians aged between 18-34 fleeing unemployment in their home country in hope of better job opportunities, especially in London.
Interestingly the typology of this 200,00 strong diaspora is far from the original surge of Italian immigrants who sought refuge from the chaos caused by the Napoleonic war; this group are educated and driven.
The Italian Chamber of Commerce
The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK was established in 1886 and today counts around 500 members, with offices in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. They aim to make the British market more accessible for Italian companies by facilitating their business interactions with members and partners and promoting cross-border opportunities.
I spoke to Caterina Cotugno in charge of the Innovation, Investment and Communication Department. She is committed to fostering innovative Italian startups in their growth process in the UK market through projects and initiatives which aim to create connections with potential investors from both the financial and industrial sectors.
“We provide an array of bespoke services, from setting-up consultancy to match-making events and seminars organised in partnership with governmental and private organisations. We want to create visibility around our network and give these startups the occasion to stand out and pitch their disruptive technologies.” Caterina explains.
“In fact, we have very recently launched the Innovation section on our website where startups can have their own profile and find interesting information about events and opportunities in the UK ecosystem. Last year we successfully managed to bring a delegation of 55 startups to the UnBound Digital conference, which was in collaboration with the Italian Trade Commission and the association Italia Start-up.”
Aiding the Integration of Italian Business in London
The Italian business community is very supportive; the Italian Chamber of Commerce work alongside the Italian Embassy in London along with the Italian Trade Commission, Cultural Institute and even Italian banks to ensure the successful integration of Italian business.
The Italian Chamber of Commerce organise networking events twice a month as well as exciting award ceremonies promoting young Italian talent in London:
Talented Young Italians
“TYI aims to bring to public attention those professionals (under 40) who have succeeded in their business in the UK, in four categories (Finance and Services; Industry and Commerce; Research and Innovation; Media and Communication).” Explains Caterina, who is responsible for launching the event.
“The Keynes Sraffa, is organised in collaboration with the British Chamber of Commerce for Italy, and celebrates outstanding Italian and English individuals who epitomise the co-operation between this country and Italy. The award ceremonies take place on the evening before the Annual Conference, our most important event, whose attendees include ministers, senior bankers, economists, lawyers and business people from Italy and the UK. Every year a panel of distinguished speakers discuss about specific topics, this year’s theme is Organisational Resilience.”
To All New Italian Start Ups
The barriers to young Italian entrepreneurs are represented back taxes, bureaucracy and lack of venture capital support, London in comparison is the Italian entrepreneur’s dream environment. However, the London startup scene is dominated by competitiveness and an emphasis on meritocracy which can unarm the unexpecting Italian entrepreneur.
“To tack the latter I would say first of all: know your business and make it scalable, do your research before moving, rely on the right people with diverse skills, attend as many meetings as possible (there are so many in London, even informal ones) and finally, use the competitiveness as an incentive to do better!” advises Caterina.
Becoming a member of the Italian Chamber of Commerce “will certainly expand a company’s network and generate support in the promotion of their own business”.