Piero Formica

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Piero Formica

Piero Formica (Bologna, 1944), is an Italian writer and university professor of Knowledge, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.


To complete his studies in international economics, thanks to scholarships he attended the Bologna Center of Johns Hopkins University 1966–68. The JHU has been present in Bologna since 1995, contributing to the vitality of 'la Dotta' (the learned), whose name recalls the birth in 1088 of the first university of the second millennium in Bologna – the Alma Mater Studiorum.

The beginning: the '70s[edit]

In the early 1970s Formica was a young, new economist in the OECD Economic Prospects Division. As part of the editorial team of Economic Outlook, the twice-yearly analysis of major economic trends and prospects for the next two years, together with colleagues he contributed to studies and comparative researches of the economies of OECD member countries, particularly on research on the labour market and the output gap of member countries. They observed the behaviour of policy makers which, partly as a result of data processed and published in the Economic Outlook, led governments to adopt economic policy measures. The OECD published this second study in July 1973 under the title "The Measurement of Domestic Cyclical Fluctuations". Parisian life in the 1970s was affected by social tensions after 1968 and was conditioned by the "1973 energy crisis" (the sharp rise in the price of crude oil and its derivatives) triggered by the Yom Kippur War. And yet, Paris was always the Ville Lumière – a melting pot of cultures, a civilization of conversation that dated back to the Century of the Scientific Revolution and the following Age of the Enlightenment, including in intellectual salons where the primacy of intelligence sought to raze social differences to the ground.

In the latter 1970s, with a group of economists from Cambridge under Nicholas Kaldor and Wynne Godley Formica worked on European and regional economic policies as economic adviser to the regional government of Emilia-Romagna (Italy). At the University of Cambridge, his working group drew up a white paper which judged that “European policies will never resolve unemployment disparities which exist within the European Community”. Almost two decades later, the gap between the strong and weak countries of the European Union still jeopardizes the Union's resilience. Between the end of that decade and the following one, Formica contributed to the creation of the Italian Association of Regional Sciences, and he was one of its founders. Unfortunately, the shoots of regional governments have not produced the desired fruits. In Italy, regional governments have blatantly failed to meet the challenge of innovation in macroeconomic policies.

1980s and 1990s[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, Formica engaged in academic activity in the United Kingdom (London and Birmingham) and at the University of Bologna where he was also a member of the Board of Governors for four years. In 1988, the University of Bologna celebrated its ninth centenary, weaving together a vast network of partnerships and collaborations with universities around the world. Since then to date, Alma Mater is confronted with the leap from the industrial to the knowledge economy, from the production of “atoms” in form of machines that perform “cold” or unintelligent functions to that of “bits” associated with machines that even affect our very culture – in other words, from “making things” to “think-oriented, ideas-based businesses”. New academic and business heroes are heralded as essential to the mastering of a new domain. “Business as usual” is being replaced by the emergence of new leading personalities who, supported by people with similar thought processes, are willing to change the fabric of traditional mental habits and conventional ideas.

The 1980s and 1990s also saw Formica involved in the European programmes for the birth and development of incubators and science and technology parks. He collaborated with the European Business Network – a network of around 140 quality-certified EU|BICs (business and innovation centres) and 100 other organisations that support the development and growth of innovative entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs – and for a decade (1995–2006) he was a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Association of Science Parks. As expert to the European Commission's Directorate-General responsible for the above mentioned programmes, he was part of international teams for the design of incubators and science/technology parks (STP) in the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany and Finland.

Outside Europe, Formica did the same in Australia, China, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Canada. From the experiences of those two decades, he has drawn his conviction that intangible investments are the key to the fate of incubators and STP. What is most valuable is the combination of multiple stakeholders involved in those initiatives. Stakeholders are competitors, partners, complementors, suppliers, and customers. Connectedness – that is, bringing closer together all players of creativity and innovation dynamics – is developed through the formation of business circles centred round the communities of knowledge practice. Incubators and STP must also try to muscle in on the trend towards networking of human intelligence by expanding their role as a motor for the digital economy.


During the 2000s Formica spent his academic life almost entirely in the area of research at the convergence between physical, natural, humanities and social sciences, carrying out an intense publishing activity with the publication of books and articles in academic journals (Industry & Higher Education, Harvard Business Review, and others). At the University of Tartu in Estonia, he designed the first master's degree from that University dedicated to entrepreneurship, and taught there, initially thanks to the European Union's Marie Curie programme until the first years of the current decade. In the United Arab Emirates, Formica inaugurated in 2003 the chair of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Higher Colleges of Technology. From 2006 to 2009 he was professor of Knowledge, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Jonkoping University in Sweden. From 2010, he's Senior Research Fellow at the Innovation Value Institute of the Maynooth University in Ireland.

In conceiving a publishing project for a new entrepreneurial renaissance – Piero Formica, (Editor), Entrepreneurial Renaissance: Cities Striving Towards an Era of Rebirth and Revival, Springer, 2017 – said that: "I drew inspiration from the interweaving of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences that characterizes the University of Maynooth. Founded in 1997, the University is both the youngest and one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Ireland, tracing its origins to the foundation of the Royal College of St. Patrick in 1795. It was there that Father Nicholas Joseph Callan (1799–1864), professor of natural philosophy, demonstrated the transmission and reception of electrical energy without wires with a device that is now known as the electrical transformer. Discoveries, inventions and innovations have flourished in hybrid contexts such as the College of St. Patrick where an invisible thread tied together theology, philosophy, art and science – a legacy that the University of Maynooth has renewed, enriching it with new contents. As we enter a new age of post-industrial development, the mission to be pursued should be that of accompanying, in a spirit of altruism, new generations along the path of their personal and professional development. It is on this terrain that I am trying to commit myself, promoting young people heralding the entrepreneurship renaissance of the twenty-first century with innovative start-ups. Supported by digital technologies that create the infrastructure of ‘knowledgefication’, whose force of transmission is comparable to that of the electricity networks of the early twentieth century, the growing power of the youngsters' human mind voluntarily builds its future using mental gymnastics to manage uncertainties".

In the 2018 Piero Formica published his new book "Il Bazar delle Follie: Pensieri sull'Italia nell'età della conoscenza" in which all the illustrations and graphic works were made by Guermandi Group

Awards and honors[edit]

Professor Formica received several awards and honors that include a Honorary Professor bestowed by the University of Mar del Plata (Argentina), a Guest Professor at King Saud University (Saudi Arabia) and at Curtin University of Technology, Curtin Business School (Perth, WA); a Special International Professor of Knowledge Economics and Entrepreneurship at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (China); an International Professor of Knowledge Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Higher Colleges of Technology, United Arab Emirates; a Senior Research Fellow of the Enterprise Research and Development Centre Business School at the University of Central England in Birmingham; a Visiting Professor of Knowledge Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Jean Monnet Faculty of Political Studies (Second University of Naples, Italy); a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute for Enterprise and Innovation at the University of Nottingham, and a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Bologna, Italy, where he held the professorship of Economics of Innovation in the Masters of Business Law and Technology Management.

In 2017, Professor Formica has received the Innovation Luminary Award in June 2017 by the Open Innovation Science and Policy Group under the aegis of the European Union.

Professor Formica serves as board member of Industry & Higher Education; the International Journal of the Knowledge Economy; the International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development; the Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research; the South Asian Journal of Management; and Frontiers in Education. He writes for the digital edition of Harvard Business Review.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, “…the wise man regards the reason for all his actions, but not the results. The beginner is in our own power; fortune decides the issue”. Following Seneca's teaching, Formica had the honour of receiving the Innovation Luminary Award in June 2017 by the Open Innovation Science and Policy Group under the aegis of the European Union, with this motivation: “Professor Formica sees new connections, new functions essential for functioning innovation ecosystems and is warmly advocating for open innovation 2.0. in his work towards innovation renaissance. He has extensively published in the fields of knowledge economics, entrepreneurship and innovation. Hence Professor Piero Formica is receiving the Innovation Luminary award for his outstanding work on sustained contributions to entrepreneurial research, development of the Experimental Labs approach and advocating for an Innovation Renaissance

Published works[edit]

Professor Formica has extensively published in the fields of knowledge economics, entrepreneurship and innovation. His most recent published works include:

  • The Experimental Nature of New Venture Creation: Capitalizing on Open Innovation 2.0 (Springer, 2013)
  • Stories of Innovation for the Millennial Generation: The Lynceus Long View (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • The Role of Creative Ignorance: Portraits of Path Finders and Path Creators (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  • Grand Transformation Towards an Entrepreneurial Economy: Exploring the Void (Emerald Group Publishing, 2015)
  • Entrepreneurial Renaissance: Cities Striving Towards an Era of Renaissance and Revival (Springer, 2017)
  • Exploring the Culture of Open Innovation: Towards an Altruistic Model of Economy (Emerald Publishing Group, 2018)
  • Il Bazar delle Follie: Pensieri sull'Italia nell'età della conoscenza (DuePuntoZero di Ad Maiora Editoria, 2018


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