At the Milan Expo ‘Start-Up and Innovation Forum’, opened by the Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, over 400 Italian startups were presented with national and international insights about how to seek investment and innovation opportunities for their emerging enterprises. The event was held by Mipaaf, Google Italy and ItaliaCamp Vivaio Italia, and moderated by Monica Maggioni, the director of RaiNews24. Speakers included Domenico Arcuri (Managing Director of Invitalia), Paolo Barberis (Digital and Innovation Adviser to the Italian Prime Minister), Marco Bicocchi Pichi (President of Italia Start Up), Raffaele Borriello (General Director of Ismea), Stefano Firpo (General Director of Industrial Politics, Competition and SMEs for the Minister of Economic Development), Federico Florà (President of Italiacamp), Giovanni Sabatini (General Director of ABI) and last but not least, Michiel Bakker (Global Director of Google Food Service). After a series of insightful presentations, the forum culminated with a speech given by Michiel Bakker on Google’s role in two interesting projects with the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and Unioncamere (Italian Chamber of Commerce). Google Food is constantly supporting innovative food initiatives around the world and seeking to contribute to traditional and renewed alimentary knowledge at a local, national and global level. Two important international collaborations thus far include the Menus of Change by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as the Stockholm EAT Forum. Now Google Food is turning to Italy and its growing community of SMEs. “Google wants to be a growth agent for European businesses. We are backing European entrepreneurs and businesses with investment, expertise and technology,” stated Bakker. European markets can use Google to reach new markets and improve their productivity to create better products and services. “Over a three year period the search on Google for keywords related to ‘Made in Italy’ increased by 22%. More importantly, the food category had the highest growth rate of 33%. The data truly confirms that what we already know. Local users love Italian food,” said Bakker. Given that users are increasingly searching for this information online, it is a clear indicator that technology and online media presents a significant opportunity for Italian food companies to increase their global reach and export their products to new markets. As a technology provider, Google is instrumental in giving value to small-scale producers, by providing them with an increased online presence, and thus promoting direct relationships between producers, consumers and territories of origin. This has been achieved via the ‘Made in Italy: Eccellenze in Digitale‘ project, a partnership between the Google Cultural Institute, the Italian government and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. “Through this project with the Italian government we have created 167 exhibits and we are creating more dedicated to Italian quality certified products from the food and manufacturing space. Of the 167 exhibits, 80 are food related. And the idea is not just to present the products but also to tell the user the story and the cultural heritage behind these products,” said Bakker. A good example of the collaboration between technology and food is the Montioni Farm case study. Founded in 1978 by Montioni Adeodato Montioni in the municipality of Montefalco, the farm covers 12 hectares of vineyards, olive groves and cereal crops. The farm was selected by the Italian Government and Chamber of Commerce to participate in the Made in Italy: Excellence in Digitale project, and receive help from a Google technician to optimize their website for mobile and integrate Google My Business into their workflow. Current owner Paul Montioni recognises that this process was “fundamental” for his enterprise. He notes that “we have always been very digitized…we have been online for 15 years.” But with the assistance from Google the company has further improved its online presence by translating the website into Russian, Japanese, Chinese and German to enter new markets and expand their e-commerce. “As a result of their online presence they have now increased their income by 30%,” said Bakker. Being able to showcase Italian products to a global audience can help boost Italian export. It can also be used as tool to promote awareness about the quality of each food item and share their cultural legacies. In addition, the project helps to fight counterfeit food. “Our exhibits are focused on educating consumers on how to recognise original products and the best ways to do it,” noted Bakker. Google wants to help all SMEs (in addition to those already listed on the platform) to obtain the right online skills and take advantage of the advertising opportunities offered by the Internet. Google also wants to help empower young Italians to build their digital skills and knowledge. By combining these two ideas, a secondary partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and Unioncamere (Chambers of Commerce) was formed to create Crescere in Digitale. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NagVYSI0e7I “Through this partnership between Google, the Ministry, and the Chamber of Commerce, we are going to offer free online training on digital skills for SMEs and to all 500,000 Italian youngsters who are presently not working or studying. Then, the Italian government will offer the top selected 3000 that have successfully completed the training, a six-month paid internship as a digitiser, to support the digitisation of SMEs. So through this, we will enable youngsters to pick up their careers while at the same time providing the SMEs with skilled digitisers at no cost, funded by the government. And we would love for many of these digitisers to be hosted by food SMEs,” stated Bakker. The initiatives demonstrate Google’s trust in Italy, and willingness to support and share Italian culture and its artisanal legacy worldwide. The projects will provide a great opportunity to leverage the power of technology to help SMEs become more competitive in the digital environment, while at the same time improving the digital skills of a young populace who can in turn support the digitization of these enterprises.