Rome, the business incubators and the bureaucratic timescales

Who did know that in Rome there are 4 municipal incubators that often launch calls for technology companies or the eco-friendly economy? There is only one problem: the slowness of the bureaucracy. After that, you can change the world!

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It happened by chance. I was curious to see what the Eternal City had to offer its startupers and so I sort of lazily typed “Municipality of Rome business incubators” into Google and suddenly, there, out of the blue, up popped an invitation to tender for a mysterious “San Basilio business incubator” that appeared to come under the Municipality’s self-promotion social site. A file opened up in my mind and my eyes began to search through the site. Contacts, telephone number, and the search began.

So it was that a short time ago I discovered that Rome has 4 municipal business incubators on the outskirts of the city at Corviale, San Basilio, Garbatella and Campo Boario (just to give you an idea, the city of the other economy). Wow! So it’s true that this is where the future lies, I said to myself. Naturally the first thing I did was to look for a contact who could tell me more and so I called the Public Relations Office. It, however, saw the same info that I saw on the site and I was obviously asking too many questions. The told me that the only way to get some answers was to ask the Director. I called his secretary who passed me on to a technical expert, Mr Luca Veneri, who provided me with some general information. I asked to speak with the Director, Mr Coccia who was still tied up in a meeting. I left a contact number but no one called me back.

After two days I rang them again and they made an appointment for me to interview Mr Coccia, 15 days later. Fifteen days? I explained that this could easily be sorted out over the phone and that it would probably only take a matter of 10 minutes. I just wanted some more information about the municipal business incubators. They told me that a date for the interview had been fixed and that this could not be done over the telephone (as things went the interview took place 20 days later and by telephone at that!). I tell you this tale about my research because I think that the first requirement of innovation ought to be speed – as well as accessibility to information. I place myself in the shoes of a young entrepreneur who wants to submit a tender and wants to know more. My hope is that he or she does not receive the kind of treatment dished out to me who simply wanted to publicise a municipal service.

Anyway, I finally managed to get through to Mr Coccia, the head of the social self-promotion section that manages the public funding of small businesses in the city’s more disadvantaged districts. He explained that yes, there are business incubators and that they came into being in 2007-2008. The incubation, which offers tutoring, spaces and management of finances, lasts approximately three years, but in effect, he says: “The general experience of the incubators did not produce the anticipated outcomes. There are many businesses that start up in apartments and do not require incubation.
And even when businesses have been incubated, not all them have survived. Take Corviale, for instance. The intention there was that it should be dedicated to cultural and entertainment businesses. But of the six businesses that were there, four or five are on the verge of shutting up shop and the two companies that remain would like to keep going, sustaining the space’s running costs. Garbatella, which was to have been the site of businesses of a social nature, has the capacity to take around ten companies. It is still not operating at its utmost potential and is used for taking in companies in stand-by, i.e. those that have emerged from other incubators whilst awaiting their reconversion.

Undoubtedly the most successful of the incubators was that in Testaccio/Campo Boario, dedicated to the other environmentally compatible economy, where new businesses arrived in October 2012.” Coccia goes on… “In San Basilio, which was dedicated to technological businesses, we are reconverting. We have just finished one tender (on the 18th of April) looking for a company that in exchange for being accommodated in the offices can provide the management and tutoring of guest firms. And in the next few months we will be publishing a new invitation to tender to get new companies into San Basilio.” Other invitations to tender will shortly be re-published for the other incubators, namely Garbatella and, if it holds out, Corviale. Why not take a look at the website www.autopromozionesociale.it and good luck!

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