Even before the global crisis, the Italian economy was experiencing international difficulties, although the slow growth and declining share of world trade were accompanied by a perceptible process of manufacturing transformation. The paper uses data from the Bank of Italy’s survey of manufacturers to measure a crucial aspect of the transformation, namely quality upgrading, from 2000 to 2006. The gauge of upgrading, not used in earlier literature, is the portion of price changes representing the return to value creation, both tangible (new products and the improvement of existing products) and intangible (branding policies). We find evidence that upgrading is responsible for a quarter of the firms’ average annual price increases (about zero point five out of two percentage points), with roughly equal effects from the tangible and the intangible components. The analysis also shows that product upgrade strategies help to foster job creation and sales growth.
Keywords: Quality upgrading, innovation, strategy change
Jel Code: L11, L15, L60, M30