Focus on Italy: Italian startups fostering social change

As part of the Europe 2020 growth strategy, the European Commission has recommended to Italy to implement incentive policies in support of startups and to approve measures that can make access to credit easier for companies investing in innovation.

The Ministry of Economic Development responded by setting up a task force and its consequent “Restart Italia” highlighted new actions aimed to achieve this goal, up to reach the emanation of the Government “Decree CrescItalia bis”, which includes a section explicitly dedicated to innovative startups and defines a particular category of innovative start-up: the innovative social startups (or SIAVS), a novelty in the field of third sector and innovation!

New “social” subjects, which have a distribution constraint of only temporary profits, dictated mainly by logic of asset consolidation.

With this new discipline is possible to implement socially relevant entrepreneurial initiatives outside a strictly non-profit perimeter. A first step towards to encourage an opening towards a system that looks at economic results-and not exclusively to its legal status.

SIAVS possess the same requirements as other innovative startups, but operate in some specific sectors, defined on social enterprises considered of particular social value:

  • Social assistance
  • Health care
  • Social and health care
  • Education, education and training
  • Protection of the environment and the ecosystem
  • Enhancement of cultural heritage
  • Social tourism
  • University and post-university education
  • Training outside school
  • Instrumental services to social enterprises.


The recognition of SIAVS requires more flexible procedures, tailored to the needs of companies that assume a double connotation linked to the realization of activities that, while using technological innovations, pursues social objectives. SIAVS, therefore, are a new way of undertaking economic activities, deriving from the concomitant presence of different elements of business, in order to create the opportunity to carry out new forms of entrepreneurship while at the same time translating its effects on the social status of the community.

Classical paradigms of profit oriented organizations, cannot be applied to social enterprises or, in general, to the non-profit oriented sector. 

The SIAVS promote social responsibility by embracing a paradigm of social economy that aims to harmonise free market and social justice, combining collective dimension and pursuit of profit, sustainability and ability to attract investment.

This statement is also supported by the tendency of various European countries fostering economic performance indicators that also include social progress and collective well-being.

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