Received: 2022-01-15  |  Accepted: 2022-03-13  |  Published: 2022-03-30


Innovations and the circular economy: a national and regional perspective


The introduction of innovative practices compatible with the objectives of the circular economy is one of the main enablers for transforming current production patterns towards more sustainable and competitive systems. Understanding whether and to what extent firms are introducing circular-oriented innovations allows monitoring where we stand in the circular transition and thus which further efforts are needed to achieve a resource-efficient economy. This study is based on data from two surveys on Small and Medium Enterprises: the first one reaches 4565 companies located throughout Italy (in the two-year period 207-2018) and the second one focuses on 1603 companies operating in the Emilia-Romagna region (in the three-year period 2017-2019). The analysis is aimed at offering a broad picture of the level of involvement of national and regional firms in the implementation of circular innovation. Despite the overall positive performance, there appears to be a fragmented adoption of circular innovation in terms of firms' size, technological intensity of the sectors and in accordance with the geography and the productive specialization of the territory. In general, circular innovation mainly involves firms operating in low-technology-intensity sectors in Southern Italy and more technological intensive sectors in Northern Italy and it is more widespread among large firms. On the contrary, in Emilia-Romagna, the distribution of circular innovation mainly concerns medium-sized firms, especially those belonging to low and medium technology-intensive sectors, moreover companies in the provinces of Modena and Parma show higher adoption rates.


circular economy, eco-innovation, circular innovation, small and medium enterprises, business models, regional studies

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This is an open access issue and all published articles are licensed under a
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Antonioli, Davide
University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
Sustainability Environmental Economics and Dynamics Studies (SEEDS), Ferrara, Italy
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Chioatto, Elisa
University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
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Mazzanti, Massimiliano
University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
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Journal title

Insights into Regional Development





Issue date

March 2022

Issue DOI


ISSN 2345-0282 (online)


VšĮ Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Center, Vilnius, Lithuania


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