The Region of Lombardy is located in the heart of Europe, at the crossroads between the major East-West communications routes (linking the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkans) and the North-South routes (linking Continental Europe and the Mediterranean). The territory extends over a surface of 23.864 sq. km. It is the Italian region with the highest concentration of people, businesses and wealth: the region represents 16,5% of the overall national population with approximately 10 million inhabitants in 2016 (Eurostat, 2017), Lombardy is the fifth most populated region of Europe, after North Rhine-Westphalia (17,8), Bayern (12,8), Île de France (12,1) and Baden Württemberg (10,8) (Eurostat, 2017). The inhabitants of Lombardy represent almost the 2% of all the population of the European Union of 27 countries (Eurostat 2017).
The growth of a regional economy is based on work, entrepreneurial freedom and cultural, scientific and technological innovation. In Lombardy, this growth is fostered by the implementation of targeted and transversal actions, such as the support of globalization and technological upgrading, the innovation of financial management and access to credit. Cultural assets and landscape are also part of the region’s economic resources.
The gross domestic product (GDP) of Lombardy, amounting to 331.405 million euro (Infocamere, 2015 data), is the fifth largest GDP among the European regions. Lombardy Region alone contributes 2,61% of the entire European Community GDP and 21% of the national one (Infocamere, 2015).
The industrial sector is traditionally very strong: it employs around one-third of the region’s workforce and is organized into industrial districts, chief among which are precision metalworking, textiles and clothing, wood and metal processing.
Lombardy’s propensity to privilege high-tech industrial products has made it one of Europe’s most specialized regions in the fields of innovation and advanced products. It boasts several very strong industrial clusters in the areas of aerospace, agri-food production, green chemistry, sustainable mobility, clean energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, new materials, bio-and nanotechnologies, and telecommunications.
Entrepreneurship in Lombardy is both widespread and dynamic. There are 812.668 active enterprises (about 16% of the national total); in 2014, 58.957 new enterprises were set up (Annuario Statistico Regionale, 2015-2016).
Lombardy is the Italian region with the highest percentage of SMEs: 20% of the manufacturing enterprises.
The economy of Lombardy is characterised by a wide variety of industries ranging from traditional sectors, such as agriculture and livestock to heavy and light industries. Following a trend that is common to many other European regions, the service industry has also had a strong development in the last decades. Although 40,4% of the regional territory is represented by the Alpine mountain area Lombardy concentrates a staggering figure of 37,2 businesses per squared kilometre. Some 40% of the total number of firms is based in Milan and its province, and the main sectors are: mechanical, electronics, metallurgy, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, publishing, footwear and furniture. The service sector is also very well developed and mostly related to international trade and financial services.
Lombardy has a high level research infrastructure, it is characterized by the specialisation in various technical and scientific disciplines and includes skills and research groups of international ranking. Lombardy counts thirteen major academic institutions (7 public universities, 5 private universities and a higher education centre). A number of universities pursue research in space-related matters, e.g. Politecnico di Milano (NEREUS Associate member) having a world-wide reputation in this field.
In addition to universities, Lombardy hosts several prominent centres for research, both private and public, among which there are 12 institutes of the National Centre for Research (CNR) out of 102 in Italy (Source: CNR) and 17 teaching hospitals/institutions (out of 42 Italy-wide).
The IREA institute (NEREUS Associate Member), one of the departments of the National Council of Research (CNR) dedicated to remote sensing, has a support unit and an experimental station in Milan.
Moreover, there are 6 scientific and technology parks, active in the energy, agro-food, aerospace, life sciences, bio-and nano-technologies, and new materials sectors.
Lombardia also hosts in its territory the Joint Research Centre (JRC); JRS, with 1850 employees, is located in Ispra, Provincia di Varese and dedicates most of its activity to environment and security with an extensive use of space data.
Through the approval of the Smart Specialisation Strategy, or “Regional smart specialisation strategy for research and innovation”, Lombardy Region has identified 7 Specialisation Areas that include and represent the majority of the economic and scientific bodies situated in the Region. Aerospace is one of these specialisation areas.
The Lombardia Aerospace Cluster was established in 2009; it is an integrated system of companies, technological expertise and advanced scientific capabilities in the aerospace industry and represents the state of the art in the regional aerospace industry and research sector.