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Francesca Bria


President, Italian National Innovation Fund

VISIONARY No. 9

At the dawn of the 20th century, Italian Futurists had denounced their country as being overrun with museums and cemeteries, lacking in a spirit of modernity that would take lo Stivale into a new age of industrialization, innovation and productive efficiency. Despite Futurist founder FT Marinetti’s impassioned plea in 1909, Italy has since struggled to shake off its image as Europe’s cradle of history.

Come the modern day — and enter Francesca Bria. As president of the Italian National Innovation Fund, the self-styled innovation economist and digital policy expert aims to leverage the power of venture capital as a strategic pillar to fuel Italy’s economic development. Supported by a cross-section of government departments, Bria’s goal is to foster sustainable growth for the Italian VC ecosystem, in a way that may one day put it on a level footing with some of the EU’s more innovative member countries.

Alongside this, Bria is an honorary professor at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London and senior adviser to the United Nations on digital cities and digital rights. She regularly advises the European Commission on research and innovation policy, and was also the chief technology and digital innovation officer for the city of Barcelona.

What to watch out for this year: Italy’s economy took a particularly hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic, and has since turned toward innovation as a source of economic development. In the dispensation of EU recovery funds, expect Bria to make the case for greater investment in the country’s tech ecosystem.

What’s their superpower: Being a friend to many high-level officials across the EU. Bria is a regular on the Brussels policy circuit. If she can influence Italy’s economic recovery through innovative programs, her approach could provide a blueprint for other European nations to follow.

Influence score: 20/30

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