Unindustria Reggio Emilia has created Upidea! acceleration program to promote the interaction between start-ups and corporates through open innovation projects.
Reggio Emilia economic context is mainly composed by SMEs, which often maintain traditional business models focused on manufacture. Their “innovation model” remains informal and internal, thus, local SMEs are usually very distant from the Research Academy and Start-ups world. These issues translate into a loss of competitiveness in the global market, gaps on digital transformation, and lack of innovation and R&D.
Reggio Emilia territory has, therefore, created a start-up ecosystem to carry out open innovation projects. The University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Legacoop Emilia Ovest, CNA, Impact Hub, Chamber of Commerce are some of the actors involved. This integrated public/private local strategy consists of supporting entrepreneurship and promoting open innovation between corporates and start-ups.
In particular, Unindustria Reggio Emilia (local branch of the Italian Entrepreneurs Association Confindustria) has created Upidea!, a 6-months acceleration program to promote corporate innovation with start-ups. Start-ups from different sectors are selected, trained and mentored by using corporates’ competences and networks. Projects that bring innovation to the territorial production system, such as digital manufacturing, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and sustainability projects, are especially welcomed.
The collaboration between corporates and start-ups represents a win-win strategy for innovating a local economic system.

Resources needed

About 100k euros/year to organize the Upidea! Program, including activities and competences of scouting, mentoring, lean start-up methodology, business model Canvas (BMC), open innovation.

Evidence of success

• N. of editions: 5 editions;
• N. of submissions: 150 applications;
• N. of accelerated start-ups: 20 every year;
• N. of business meetings: 50/80;
• N. of entrepreneurs involved in start-ups meetings: 300
• N. of POC (proof of concept): 10;
• N. of partnership between start-ups/corporates: 20;
• N. of open innovation projects: 10;
• Funds raised: 3,5 millions of euros.

Difficulties encountered

• To share experiences between public and private sector (coordination activity);
• To define an integrated strategy;
• To change and open the culture of the corporates;
• To add a cultural entrepreneurship to the researchers;
• To support the dialogue between start-ups and corporates.

Potential for learning or transfer

Despite the specific territorial characteristics related to Reggio Emilia's socio-economic context, the aspects that could be potentially replicated in other European countries are related to the design and management of an integrated and local public/private ecosystem strategy to support entrepreneurship and promote open innovation between corporates and start-ups, and to the design of a system for transferring research results from University to start-ups/spin-offs to promote researchers’ entrepreneurship.

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Main institution
Municipality of Reggio Emilia
Start Date
January 2016
End Date


Saverio Serri Please login to contact the author.