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UCIMU: An Excellent 2022 for the Italian Industry of Machine Tools, Robotics and Automation

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In 2023 the positive trend will continue … The growth of the Italian manufacturing industry of machine tools, robots and automation systems is not going to stop. After an extremely positive 2021, the Italian industry of sector is closing the year 2022 with double-digit increases for almost all main economic indicators. Moreover, a favourable 2023 is expected, although with lower growth rates.

This is in brief what was reported by Barbara Colombo, president of UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE, the Italian machine tools, robots and automation systems manufacturers’ association, during the usual year-end press conference.

According to the preliminary year’s data processed by the Studies Dept. & Business Culture of UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE, in 2022, production attained 7,255 million euro, marking a 14.6% upturn versus the previous year.

The outcome was due to the excellent trend of Italian manufacturers’ deliveries to the domestic market, grown by 27% to 3,980 million euro, as well as to the positive performance of exports, which reached 3,275 million euro, i.e. 2.5% more than in the previous year.

The Italian demand for machine tools, robots and automation systems was really dynamic in 2022 – as it had been in the previous year. With a 31.3% rise, domestic consumption went up to 6,575 million euro, driving not only the deliveries of Italian manufacturers, but also imports (2,595 million euro, +38.5%).

The import/consumption ratio gained about 2 percentage points, standing at 39.5%, however below the “attention threshold” of 40%.

On the foreign front, based on UCIMU processing of the data from the Italian National Statistical Institute (ISTAT), in the period January-August 2022 (latest available data), the major destination markets for the Italian product offering of the sector were the United States (281 million euro, +24.7%), Germany (199 million euro, -15.6%), China (122 million euro, -3.5%), Poland (111 million euro, +4.7%), France (105 million euro, +9.1%). The export/production ratio decreased by about 5 percentage points, accounting for 45.1%

Despite the factors of uncertainty that are troubling the contest, the positive trend should also continue in 2023.

In particular, according to the forecasts carried out by the Studies Dept. & Business Culture of UCIMU, in 2023, production should rise to 7,565 million euro (+4.3% versus 2022), thanks to the upturn registered by exports, which should amount to 3.375 million euro (+3.1%) and thanks to the manufacturers’ deliveries to the domestic market, expected to increase by 5.3% to 4,190 million euro.

Even consumption should keep on growing, totalling 6,820 million euro, corresponding to 3.7% more than in 2022. Although to a lower extent compared with manufacturers’ deliveries, imports should also benefit from the dynamism of domestic demand, marking a 1.3% increase, which should bring their value to 2,630 million euro. The export/production ratio should drop again, standing at 44.6%.

The confirmation that the growth reported in 2022 will continue in 2023, as highlighted in the forecasts, is also evidenced in the analysis of the Italian manufacturers’ order portfolio, which in the first nine months of the year (latest available data) shows 8.1 months of production guaranteed by orders, the highest value ever registered over the last 30 years.

Barbara Colombo, president of UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE, commented: “Despite the problems of the context – such as high energy costs, as well as difficulties in finding available raw materials, electric and electronic components – in 2022 the Italian manufacturers of machine tools, robots and automation systems have achieved new record results for most economic indicators ”.

“In particular – went on Barbara Colombo – there is an evident dynamism of Italian demand, supported by the incentives 4.0, which, in 2022, are still offering extremely high rates (tax credit accounting for 40% of the investment value). These rates will be reduced to 20% already from 2023, unless amendments are made.

“The large amount of investments in state-of-the-art production systems, made over the last years and in particular in the post-2020 two-year period, proves the effectiveness of the measures implemented by our Government authorities. Therefore – affirmed the president of UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE – we ask that the incentive measures become structural for the replacement of obsolete machinery and the digitalisation of production plants, because the digital and non-digital innovation is a continuous process”.

“With regard to immediate actions, we stress again that, for the year 2023, the currently existing rates for the tax credit regarding investments in new production technologies have to be confirmed and the resources provided for by the Sabatini Law have to be increased”.

“We are aware that wide-ranging measures should be prioritised, in order to face problems that are particularly complex and of general impact on the community, such as the energy crisis. Nevertheless, the manufacturing industry is a pillar of the economy in our country and thus it must be supported by provisions capable of enhancing the competitiveness of the enterprises and ensure their future, as well as a stable employment”.

“As there is no room for manoeuvers to include resources ad hoc in the Budget Law, we welcome the idea proposed by our Government authorities to ask in Europe for the possibility of employing a part of the unused resources (amounting to 3.8 billion euro) allocated for Transition 4.0 in the PNRR (Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan), to finance the measures of tax credit with the rates that are currently in force”.

“It would not mean overrunning the deadline set for 2026, but being able to exploit these resources for immediate actions linked to 2023, the year in which the Italian market should still appear particularly receptive, as a testimony to the crucial, positive moment of transformation that our industry is experiencing”.

“With regard to internationalisation – added Barbara Colombo – our data highlight that Italian enterprises are able to operate satisfactorily in some markets, most of all in the United States, as well as in several European countries, such as France and Poland. On the other hand, their results are less positive in Germany and China, which are however very important markets. Apart from the problems regarding every single country, it is however necessary to boost the activity of our enterprises overseas, because abroad we can find more interesting business opportunities, as the Italian market cannot longer keep up with the growth rates to which we have been used over the last few years”.

“In light of this, we ask to increase the funds in support of the internationalisation activities of our companies. In particular, I am referring to the resources to guarantee the incoming of foreign operators to the international trade fairs of the sector that take place in Italy and concern the initiatives organised with ICE-Italian Trade Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of International Cooperation; I also mention the incentives reserved by SIMEST for the participation of Italian companies in the exhibition of international relevance held in Italy and abroad.

In general – concluded Barbara Colombo – always considering the reopening of the 394 Fund, which, we hope, will already occur at the beginning of the new year, we ask to provide resources not only to the SMEs, but also to the Mid Cap companies, which are the drivers of the production chains.

These resources should be allocated for non-repayable and soft financing of internationalisation activities, such as, for example, the opening of subsidiary offices and branches and the creation of enterprises’ networks abroad, as well as development projects for ecological and digital transitions”.

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