Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 136–149 | Cite as

Italian Craft Firms Between Digital Manufacturing, Open Innovation, and Servitization

  • Angelo Bonfanti
  • Manlio Del Giudice
  • Armando Papa


This paper focuses on craft firms that have contributed to the creation of a strong image of Italy in the world and encouraged the development of industrial districts and small firms in the country over the past decades. However, ongoing economic, technological, social, and cultural changes in recent years have made it difficult for these firms to survive: since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 until 2015, almost 94,400 craft workshops have closed, which amounts to a 7.26 % rate of decrease. In order to face these challenges, craft entrepreneurs must be innovative and review the ways in which they provide value to customers. By means of a qualitative explorative analysis, this study aims to analyze recent strategic directions undertaken by some Italian craft firms and identify the opportunities derived from them. It highlights three directions in particular: (1) to embrace the use of digital technologies, rather than viewing them as a threat to the firm’s future, (2) to involve customers in the design and production processes and expand the firm’s network, and (3) to offer a wide range of services in relation to their products. Following all three of these strategic paths will help craft firms to survive and increase their competitive advantage by capturing opportunities offered by new technologies and new ways to produce. This paper concludes that mixing ancient and digital knowledge in an open context of collaboration will allow craft entrepreneurs to positively look to the future.


Craftsmanship Entrepreneurship Competitiveness Digital technologies 3D printing Foot and body scanner 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angelo Bonfanti
    • 1
  • Manlio Del Giudice
    • 2
  • Armando Papa
    • 3
  1. 1.University of VeronaVeronaItaly
  2. 2.Link Campus UniversityRomeItaly
  3. 3.University of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly

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