22 Sep 14. New Italian Industry Group leader wants to boost role of smaller Companies. Italy’s defense industry association is destined to take on a far more active profile after naming as its new chairman Guido Crosetto, a former politician who earned glowing reviews as a globe-trotting defense undersecretary with the Italian government between 2008 and 2011. After three years out of the defense sector, Crosetto said he would use his new role to galvanize Italian exports, increase the role of small- to medium-sized firms, and push for the reduction of trade barriers in Europe. Known by its Italian acronym AIAD, the Italian Federation of Aerospace, Defense and Security Companies has been headed by senior managers from its largest member, Finmeccanica, who have taken on a largely ceremonial role. Standing at 6-foot-6 and known for his plain speaking manner, Crosetto, 50, made an impact as defense undersecretary in Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right government in 2008, visiting up to 20 countries a year to promote Italian sales before he left office when Berlusconi’s government fell in 2011. Crosetto said he would try to revive that role with AIAD.
“This is a private sector job, but I will approach it with an institutional spirit,” he told Defense News. “The job was ceremonial, but I intend to change that. I know everyone at the ministry and can coordinate well there. I am to help Italian firms abroad and push exports.”
According to AIAD figures, the Italian aerospace and defense industry employs 50,000 people, with €15.1bn (US $19.6bn) in turnover, making it Europe’s fourth and the world’s seventh largest national sector. Two-thirds of its output heads for export markets. Of 130 AIAD members, 50 are large firms including Finmeccanica, Fincantieri and Iveco, while 80 are small to medium enterprises (SMEs). But the association has long been accused of being less of a talking shop for small and medium enterprises and more of a tool for Finmeccanica to keep those small firms in check.
“SMEs have three of 21 board seats at AIAD,” said Silvio Rossignoli, chairman of Aero Sekur, which employs 200 people near Rome. “It is historically a club for big firms, which is why many SMEs don’t join. But Crosetto, who actively backed the SMEs when he was undersecretary, may change that.”
Rossignoli said that Italian SMEs often joined so-called regional organizations, or clusters, in Italy, rather than the AIAD.
“It would be great if Crosetto can bring more SMEs into AIAD, and there are plenty. In the Lombardy region alone, there are 250 SMEs in the cluster organization, more than the SME members of AIAD.”
Carlo Festucci, the secretary general of AIAD, defended the influence Finmeccanica exerts on the organization. “Finmeccanica makes up 80 percent of the Italian defense sector and to treat it as marginal is impossible,” he said. “But we are always trying to help the SMEs become more autonomous, even if they struggle to participate in some initiatives for financial reasons.”
Crosetto said he would work with SMEs.
“SMEs are the lungs of a system, they give flexibility and provide innovation for the big firms,” he said. “No country can work without them. I would like to broaden AIAD membership and create better synergies between large and small firms.”
Crosetto was first contacted about the job by Mauro Moretti, the new CEO of Finmeccanica. The initiative may reflect Moretti’s drive to radically reform Finmeccanica and bring new faces into the industry.
Crosetto said he would also use his mandate to push for freer, cross-border trade in Europe, something which large firms often push for, even as they look to keep their home markets to themselves. (Source: Defense News)
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