Normative aspects and responsibilities into the Virtual Enterprise model

Antonio Marturano, Nicola Marturano and Roberto Tononi


In Italy, on national and EU funding, ENEA has launched Project ICIV (Concurrent Engineering for the Virtual Enterprise) to set up service centers for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s). These centers will be promoting aggregations of SME’s based on a Virtual Enterprise model, i.e. an organizational architecture and a set of operational mechanisms devised and tested within Project ICIV; in addition, the centers will be providing technological services in order for the grouped SME’s to implement concurrent engineering practices.

The Virtual Enterprise (VE) model applies to co-operations of firms which have their activities mainly in the field of complex goods and service productions. Within the aggregation, a firm performs the coordination function (called Control Unit), other firms have technical roles, such as the management of the information system, but most of the grouped enterprises are engaged in productive activities and may join or leave the VE depending on the current productive needs.

This paper analyses:

  • the normative definition of the VE; particularly when the VE is placed in the international context;
  • the responsibilities and ethical problems into the VE and customer relationship;
  • the responsibilities and ethical problems within VE partners and between these and the Control Unit.

The paper will expands on the solutions proposed within Project ICIV:

  1. a reference architecture of the aggregation of SME’s is described;
  2. an ethical and legal framework for civil, penal, financial and administrative responsibilities;
  3. an analysis of Intellectual Property Rights problems emerging from the relationship within all VE members.

Finally, the paper wraps up with a brief mention to some practical applications and case studies being foreseen in Italy.