Italy and Israel reinvent the car

Italy’s long-standing manufacturing expertise combined with Israel’s telematics knowledge make perfect driving partners


Ashley Norris


The automotive sector is one of the most important for the Italian economy. Around 700,000 cars were manufactured in Italy in 2016, with many companies significantly increasing their sales in 2017. Yet they face a challenging future as new competitors harness technology to re-calibrate the automobile as we know it.

‘Innovation is crucial. Intesa Sanpaolo is helping clients find new technology with our corporate touch points around the world like Tel Aviv.’
Fabio Spagnuolo, Head of Network and Promotion of Innovation Culture at Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center

It is helping its clients like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati keep one step ahead by sourcing new technology. One city playing a key role in that process is Tel Aviv, Israel.

“Italy has probably one of the best industrial systems in the world,” says Gianluigi Benedetti, Italian Ambassador to Israel, “and Israel has the most important ecosystem in terms of acceleration and incubation. We must seize the opportunities.”

The two countries seem tailormade to work with each other given their symbiotic skills – heavy manufacturing for Italy and technology for Israel – plus there is a flight time of only 3.5 hours between them.

Israel certainly has a pedigree in auto-tech. In 2017, Israeli smart car and transportation companies made more than $18bn in exits, investments and capital raising. Among the most high-profile deals was Intel’s acquisition of Israeli self-drive car pioneer Mobileye. It has since moved its automotive research teams to Israel joining Volkswagen, Ford, Porsche and Google who have all invested in the country’s auto-tech sector.

Why does Israel play such a pivotal role in developing auto-tech? Vincenzo Antonetti of Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center in Turin says “they specialise in cyber securities biometrics and these technologies are becoming very important for the automotive sector.”

An intriguing example of synergy between the two countries’ areas of expertise is illustrated by the emergence of Griip, the first Israeli racing-car manufacturer.


“There is no motorsport industry in Israel so we had to find somewhere else to test our Israeli-designed cars and we went to Italy,” explains Tamir Plachinsky of Griip, which utilises Italian expertise to source engines from Aprilia. “It’s the best example of how Italian knowhow and Israeli hi-tech expertise are combined. We are open-minded and we do things differently.”

So where do companies from the two countries discover more about each other? One of the main conduits for the interaction between Israeli and Italian businesses is via the Ecomotion a supporting platform for knowledge-sharing, networking and collaboration for the smart transportation sector. Intesa Sanpaolo recently took a group of clients to the Ecomotion Main Event 2018 and on a tour through the most relevant Israeli innovative accelerators and incubators.

Gianluigi Benedetti is a strong advocate of the organisation. “Ecomotion is very important to develop co-operation between Italy and Israel,” he says. “We can offer Israeli start-ups the opportunity to pilot or demo or grow in Italy and industrialise their ideas and prototypes. The potential is enormous.”

His opinion is echoed by the team at Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center. “We want to help our customers to create new opportunities,” says Vincenzo Antonetti. “Israel is the right place to do this kind of business.”

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