Usually, the limited commitment of Italian manufacturing industry to research activities is explained by general characteristics such as the relative specialisation of our economy in low-technology productions and the small size of domestic firms, which would reduce their innovativeness. This analysis does not seem to allow for the diversity of firms' innovative patterns. In fact, when this diversity is considered, it emerges that firms' size and the specialisation of the economy play much a minor role than it is often believed. Other, more decisive factors play a part; these are the factors that have to be considered by a effective innovation policy. In this paper we set out a thesis which clashes with those tipically reached by scholars dealing with innovation policy in Italy. We try to do this in the neatest way, so that our ideas can be more easily understanded and critiqued, and can possibly contribute to the undergoing debate.