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Drivers of innovation in Italy: food versus pharmaceutical industry

Stefano Ciliberti (Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Sciences, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy)
Laura Carraresi (Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany)
Stefanie Bröring (Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 6 June 2016




The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, it aims to investigate how internal and external drivers affect innovation in the Italian food industry. Second, the authors are interested to understand to what extent these drivers are industry specific, and therefore, they are contrasted against those relevant for the pharmaceutical industry in Italy according to the increasing growth of cross-industry innovation between these two sectors. The paper aims, thus, to shed light on the differences between food and pharmaceutical industries in terms of innovation drivers to understand potential precursors of emerging industry convergence.


Both probit and bivariate probit models are estimated, using data from the Italian Community Innovation Survey, in order to provide empirical evidence on drivers affecting innovation in the food and pharmaceutical industries.


The innovation activity of Italian food and pharmaceutical companies strongly relies on the presence of in-house R & D activities. Whereas firms in the pharmaceutical industry combine both internal and external R & D activities and knowledge sources to produce innovation, the case of the food industry is strongly dependent on the acquisition of external technology. In particular, the increased need for absorptive capacity of both sectors emphasises the key role of university research for collaboration, knowledge transfer and product innovation.

Research limitations/implications

The paper gives insights not only on drivers for innovation, but especially on the industry-specific differences which should be taken into account to have a contingent view. Limitations concern the impossibility to perform panel data analysis, due to the design of the database. Furthermore, both food and pharmaceutical sub-samples are not completely representative, since large companies tend to be overrepresented.

Practical implications

This paper provides managerial insights concerning the internal and external drivers affecting innovation. Moreover, it raises awareness as regards the possible differences between the food and pharmaceutical industries, which is crucial for establishing successful pathways for cross-industry innovation.


This study represents one of the few attempts to compare the innovation drivers of two manufacturing sectors (food and pharmaceutical), increasingly involved in cross-industry collaborations, and to highlight the industry-specific differences in those drivers which can act as forerunners of this phenomenon.



The authors acknowledge the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) for providing access to the Italian Community Innovation Survey database. The authors also thank Dr Chad Baum for the helpful comments.


Ciliberti, S., Carraresi, L. and Bröring, S. (2016), "Drivers of innovation in Italy: food versus pharmaceutical industry", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 6, pp. 1292-1316.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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