The present crisis is showing how the socio-economic system is at a crossroads. The choice is between keeping the business as usual and profit maximization trajectory or following a more sustainable and long-lasting path which will give back centrality to the ‘common good’. The economic capital becomes manageable in a sustainable way, only if the social capital is generated and nurtured. As of today, enterprises, territories and the most proactive countries are aware that ‘sustainable development’ constitutes an imperative at the base of their competitiveness. Indeed, being ‘smart’ and developing innovation processes driven by sustainability allow to attract, retain and share human resources, knowledge and the best investments. Today, innovation is more and more ‘collective enterprise’ that needs the effort of many entrepreneurs, both in the public and private sectors. These include consumers and citizens who are playing an increasingly central and participative role. Taking into account the network approach, the aim of this paper is to analyze the strategic importance of the local partnerships, which intend to promote innovation regarding sustainability. At the regional level, the proximity of the involved entities (enterprises, local governments, citizens, universities, chambers of commerce, trade associations, banks, etc.) generates social capital, triggering a shared development that strikes the balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions. The study presents a successful Italian case of territorial networking that brought advantages for all the involved local actors. This project included a network of SMEs, formalized by the so-called ‘Contratto di Rete’ – ‘Network Contract’ (Legislative Decree February 10 2009, n.5 and further modifications). This new and increasingly adopted tool can strengthen Italian SMEs capacity to foster their qualitative and quantitative growth in terms of competitiveness, as well as participating in a much more effective way to the regional development.
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