ULI Report: Milan and Turin Must Improve Governance Structures, Attractiveness to Talent, and Collaboration with Other Cities in the Transalpine Region to Become More Competitive

MILAN (19 April 2018) — A new ULI report argues that in order to remain competitive, the cities of Milan and Turin must improve their governance structures, attractiveness to talent, and collaboration with other cities in the Transalpine region. Milan and Turin: Competitiveness of Italy’s Great Northern Cities assesses the current competitiveness of these two major Italian cities and offers recommendations for how they can become even more competitive on an international scale.

“The challenge of developing and maintaining a competitive edge is important for cities around the world,” said Lisette van Doorn, CEO of ULI Europe. “Being competitive is not just about providing the right governance framework and competitive climate. More and more, cities must focus on attracting an increasingly mobile talent force—particularly in the creative and tech sectors—by creating both vibrant and liveable places and focusing on innovation as a key economic sector. By using ULI’s original framework for city competitiveness, this report assesses how Milan and Turin can better attract talent, businesses, and investors.”

“Milan and Turin have a lot to offer Italy and the rest of the world,” said Giancarlo Scotti, Chairman of ULI Italy. “Their relatively large sizes, their assets, and their strategic locations in the Alpine region of Europe make them key to the future competitiveness of Italy as a whole. The recommendations in this report will prove invaluable to public and private stakeholders who want to help these cities fulfill their competitive potential.”

The report is informed by research carried out by ULI in late 2017, which included workshops with ULI members and other public and private sector leaders in Milan and Turin, interviews with Italian urban experts, and a review of the two cities against recognised measures of international performance. As part of the report, two separate, detailed case studies on the competitiveness of each city will be published.

The report evaluates the competitiveness of Milan and Turin in comparison to their respective international peers based on four main elements: governance framework, competitive climate, agglomeration, and attractiveness to talent.

According to the report, both Milan and Turin already have many significant competitive advantages. Among Milan’s strengths are a highly attractive inner city; the support of the large, diversified, and innovative region of Grande Milano; an active civil society; and relatively low costs of doing business. However, a fragmented governance system combined with perceived lags in the quality of life; dis-economies of scale, including high costs of transport and public services; and mixed international perceptions about the costs and risks of doing business, threaten Milan’s competitiveness.

Turin also has many competitive advantages, including a high quality of place and a commitment to innovation; a newly defined metropolitan territory combining urban and rural assets; large reserves of affordable industrial space; and a diverse metropolitan market. On the other hand, Turin’s competitiveness suffers from a limited size and lack of global reach, a receding strategic agenda regarding competitiveness, reduced appeal to talent, and a high tax and regulatory burden for businesses.

The report provides a number of recommendations for both cities to overcome their observed competitive threats. Below is a summary of the report’s key recommendations: 


  • Governance framework: To help build alliances across borders and set examples for government, Milan’s business leaders should prioritise ‘softer’ governance solutions such as public/private partnerships, catalytic projects, brand management, and strategic planning. The region could benefit from a single locus of business and civic leadership that promotes a clear and consistent message about how best to manage and optimise agglomeration.
  • Competitive climate: Milan should differentiate its business climate and level of transparency from Italy’s less favourable business brand. As well as supporting good national policy, Milan should demonstrate and communicate that its own strong systems of city government, management, and transparency insulate it from perceived national risks. This will require a professional information and promotional effort.
  • Agglomeration: Milan should pursue the northern Italy and Alpine region as an increasingly integrated and competitive economic unit. Given the complementary strengths of Milan and Turin, plus improving regional connectivity, the region’s largest cities should expand their joint positioning and knowledge sharing while retaining their strong individual identities.
  • Attractiveness to talent: Milan needs to more effectively and more powerfully to tell its story of transformation from a centre of industry to a richly diverse post-industrial region. The city should demonstrate how it aligns with and contributes to future thinking on smart cities, the sharing economy, and sustainable mobility; and showcase how these factors will increase urban productivity and foster entrepreneurship.


  • Governance framework: Turin needs civic and business leadership to create a new positive story about the city and its future that aligns with global urban trends. A new narrative will help restore private sector confidence, build a broader and more inclusive culture of leadership in civil society, and highlight strategic initiatives that can gain political backing in the short term. Turin also needs to build on its infrastructure advantage and proceed with sustainable infrastructure initiatives that can simultaneously foster new enterprise and innovation.
  • Competitive climate: Turin should build on the promise of its social innovation ecosystem to address local challenges by focusing on issues such as youth employment, inclusion, health, and education. The city should demonstrate its ability to expand access to opportunity across the whole income and skills spectrum.
  • Agglomeration: Turin may benefit from smarter co-operation with Milan with a competitive mindset that would allow it to play a clearer set of complementary roles. The creation of joint projects involving institutions across the region (e.g., the Politecnicos, Malpensa Airport, large firms) may offer one way forward.
  • Attractiveness to talent: A clearer offer to entrepreneurs and growth firms, combined with a value proposition for venture capital, is a necessary first step for Turin to retain more of its talent. The city would then be well placed to become a leader and innovator in automated vehicles, battery storage, integrated transport technology, and IT systems. The reinvention of Turin as an enjoyable and well serviced city is likely to be a key factor in attracting new residents. Further improvements in the quality of life are also required and need to align with the social priorities of the current city administration.

To download the report, please click here.

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute is a non-profit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the institute has over 40,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. ULI has over 3,000 members in Europe across 14 National Council country networks, including ULI Italy. For more information, please visit europe.uli.org, follow us on Twitter, or join our LinkedIn group.