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Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards 2021 – The results

Costa Rica’s Coyol Free Zone has been crowned the winner in Investment Monitor’s inaugural Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards.

Economic zones (EZs) have proven resilient in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Zoë Harries, a project director at the World Free Zones Organization. This can be attributed to their characteristic business-friendly policies and reliable legal and regulatory environments. Over the past 18 months, EZs worldwide have introduced new policies and incentives to retain existing companies and attract new businesses.

Through the Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards, Investment Monitor seeks to recognise the durability of zones of all sizes and types as well as the measures they have implemented to build back stronger. To view the awards’ methodology, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Overall winner

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

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Coyol Free Zone (CFZ) outperformed all other applicants to be crowned the overall winner of Investment Monitor’s inaugural Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards. The zone was also recognised in five out of seven award subcategories. Based in Alajuela, Costa Rica, CFZ is home to 31 leading global life sciences and advanced manufacturing companies employing a total of 16,500 staff.

CFZ provides companies with comprehensive support to establish operations within the zone – from advice about infrastructure and construction to help with the recruitment process. During the pandemic, the zone introduced various measures to safeguard investment.

In March 2021, CFZ launched Academia Coyol, a free online academy to train workers within the medical industry. Currently, more than 4,600 people have enrolled in the course. The zone also made its recruitment programme, which helps companies find, pre-select and evaluate potential staff, completely virtual.

In addition, the zone introduced regulations to limit the spread of the virus. It collaborated with Laboratorios Echandi, a local laboratory, to provide free Covid testing for zone employees. CFZ also brought in a cashless electronic payment system for its transportation services, which is more hygienic and traceable than using paper tickets.

As a result of the measures implemented by CFZ, 2020 was one of its most successful years to date. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, all the zone’s construction projects went ahead, making 2020 the year with the largest number of square metres built in CFZ’s history.

In addition, all recruitment and training services were moved online, leading to the hiring of 1,500 new staff throughout the year. The zone’s companies invested approximately $52m (€44.82m) in CFZ in 2020, including Costa Rica-based logistics provider Segex, UK-based medical equipment manufacturer Smith & Nephew, Connecticut-based women’s healthcare company Coopersurgical, and Massachusetts-based industrial automation company Teradyne.

Overall runner-up

Łódź Special Economic Zone, Poland

Łódź Special Economic Zone (Łódź SEZ) has been named overall runner-up in this year’s awards. The zone was also recognised in four subcategories: digitisation, local impact, new investment, and sustainability and ESG.

Established in 1997, Łódź SEZ covers the Łódź region as well as parts of the Mazovia and Greater Poland regions. It offers investors access to a wide range of resources, technologies and financial tools to develop their business. These include the zone’s Technical School of Automation and Robotics, its development zone dedicated to SMEs, and various acceleration programmes.

In March 2020, Łódź SEZ set up the Spark: Change the Future initiative to support start-ups developing products and services to fight Covid-19. Out of 150 applicants, ten were chosen and received €400,000 grants as well as mentoring and technological support.

Łódź SEZ also helps support the Polish government’s Anti-Crisis Shield Act, which aims to counteract the negative effects of the pandemic. The zone regularly meets with investors to assess their needs and reports back to the government, which develops different tools to make running a business easier post-Covid.

Category Awards

Aftercare support

Winner

Hualing Free Industrial Zone, Georgia

Hualing Free Industrial Zone continues to support its tenants long after registration. The company assists its clients at various stages of operation, from help identifying local suppliers to providing logistics services. It offers a wide variety of financial, legal, analytical and consulting services as well as assistance with obtaining company licences, permits and visas. The zone also offers specialist training programmes in manufacturing and management, fundraising consulting, support when purchasing equipment and advice regarding government relations.

Runner-up

Rezekne Special Economic Zone, Latvia

Rezekne Special Economic Zone provides tailor-made aftercare services for companies. The zone offers consultations on taxes, duties, legislation as well as support when executing investment projects, and assistance in cooperation with state and municipal institutions. The company also organises seminars, conferences and presentations for its member companies.

Honourable mentions

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) within CFZ benefit from an on-site ecosystem of suppliers and contractors, providing packaging, moulding, extrusion, sterilisation and logistics services, among others. As a result, medical devices can be exported directly from Costa Rica to locations worldwide.

CFZ operates as a one-stop shop service provider, using an open-book strategy for all pre-construction, execution, budget control and delivery processes alongside an experienced construction management team. As a result, the zone’s clients receive tailor-made turnkey buildings in compliance with international quality standards.

Special Economic Zone Stupino Quadrat, Russia

Special Economic Zone Stupino Quadrat provides its residents with consistent support. The zone offers a variety of services including IT support, account keeping and translation services. It also provides legal, tax and marketing consulting as well as help sourcing suppliers. Stupino Quadrat operates its own HR agency providing recruitment services. Staff members can also access a range of social infrastructure including hotels, schools, flats and houses.

DMCC, UAE

DMCC provides its member companies with ready-made solutions in almost every major area of business administration, leveraging its purchasing power to negotiate deals on behalf of its tenants. The zone encourages collaboration and facilitates trade by hosting industry events, clubs and workshops.

In February 2020, a crisis programme was established to keep companies updated on the zone’s Covid response and the cases identified. A dedicated retention function was also set up for tenant companies in distress.

Members can apply for a range of employment and dependents visas through DMCC’s online member portal. The zone will then liaise on their behalf with the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.

Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, UAE

Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) offer a wide range of aftercare services to its tenants including marketing support, networking services, and coaching and mentoring. Its tenants can also access the VIP Lounge where they can fast-track visa, licensing and other business-related requirements.

HFZA’s e-services portal offers investors access to more than 300 online services including visas and renewals. In addition, HFZA works in collaboration with waste disposal management company Bee’ah to deliver 15 unique services including audits, permits and lab services, to all investors that operate within the zone.

Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone, UAE

Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone assist its clients with a variety of services including bank account assistance, UAE residence visa services, Ministry of Foreign Affairs attestation and VAT registration.

Digitisation

Winner

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, Lithuania

Following the onset of Covid-19, Klaipeda Free Economic Zone fully transferred its operations to a digital environment to ensure consistent communication with its investor community.

In December 2020, the zone became the first industrial territory in Lithuania to be fully covered by a 5G network. It is also preparing to launch a Narrowband-IoT network by the end of 2021. This will enable tenant companies to implement innovative solutions in areas such as industry 4.0, robotics and automation.

In 2021, the zone announced plans for the Industrial Innovation Competence Centre, which will familiarise manufacturing businesses operating within the zone with the latest digitalisation and automation practices, among other technologies. In addition, the zone will introduce smart metering and parking measures.

Runner up

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

CFZ incorporated digitisation as much as possible to support its business community throughout the pandemic. In March 2021, CFZ launched Academia Coyol – a digital platform that allows students to train online in areas related to the medical industry. More than 4,600 people have enrolled in the free training course so far.

The zone also adapted its recruitment programme, which helps companies find, pre-select and evaluate potential staff, to operate 100% online. Tenant companies can access CFZ’s online database, which has more than 90,000 users seeking job opportunities within the park. The zone also organised virtual job fairs.

In addition, CFZ has implemented a cashless electronic payment system for its bus services. Tickets will no longer be printed for the 12,000 commuters that use the service each day, saving 2.5 tonnes of paper per year. The new initiative promotes a safer, more hygienic environment for drivers and travellers as well as allowing for better traceability.

Honourable mentions

ZF Santander Offshoring & Outsourcing Park, Colombia

ZF Santander Offshoring & Outsourcing Park has launched an online platform for service requests, allowing users to carry out all procedures digitally. The zone also developed a series of webinars with the aim of supporting existing tenant companies and highlighting business opportunities for potential investors.

Łódź Special Economic Zone, Poland

In March 2020, Łódź Special Economic Zone launched the Zone of Support initiative in collaboration with almost 20 companies across various sectors. The initiative aims to provide the zone’s tenants and other local companies with business support during the pandemic. Companies were offered advice on how to build their e-commerce platforms, HR tools to support remote working, cybersecurity expertise on how to protect their business data and free of charge legal advice. Tenant employees could also avail of online workouts from one of Poland’s leading volleyball teams.

DMCC, UAE

DMCC had already been pursuing a digital-first strategy pre-Covid. The zone’s fully digitalised onboarding process has cut average application to licence time from 40 days to ten, reduced documentation by 60% and improved customer satisfaction by 9%.

The zone has also developed an advanced online member portal, providing tenant companies with access to a wide range of business services.

Due to the pandemic, DMCC moved its outreach activities and educational webinars online. Throughout 2020, the zone’s companies were provided access to 83 webinars. Its flagship Made for Trade Live roadshow also went virtual, enabling DMCC to promote the commercial appeal of Dubai to a wider audience.

Covid relief packages

Winner

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

At the beginning of the pandemic, CFZ created a commission to promote a safe environment, ensure compliance with the Covid-19 regulations and encourage business continuity. The committee consisted of external expert advisors, directors of tenant companies and park administrators. During this time CFZ maintained close coordination with its member companies and offered medical and legal advice as well as information about effective working from home practices.

The zone also formed an alliance with Laboratorios Echandi, a local laboratory, to provide employees with free access to Covid testing.

CFZ’s tenant companies introduced various measures to protect their employees, including support for 100% remote working initiatives when the job position allows it, donating food and face masks, providing support bonuses for families in need, and keeping lay-offs to a minimum.

Runner-up

Hualing Free Industrial Zone, Georgia

Hualing Free Industrial Zone introduced different incentive packages to support tenants during the pandemic. These included 15–50% discounts on total renewal packages, restructuring of rent payments, and a 100% waiver on various services such as registration services, activity change fees and security deposits.

The zone also offered bespoke benefits for each company to accelerate production and support strategically significant industries.

Honourable mentions

ADGM, UAE

ADGM waived, discounted and offered refunds for numerous fees during the pandemic to help its member companies. These included a 100% waiver on business activity renewal fees, commercial licence renewal fees and data protection renewal fees. ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority issued a 50% refund on supervision fees and a 100% waiver on annual funds fees for 2020.

The free zone extended a 50% reduction on fees associated with the incorporation of new business and a 100% waiver on fees associated with the continuation of entities from a foreign jurisdiction into ADGM, until the end of 2020. The ADGM Courts also introduced a pro bono scheme that provides legal advice to individuals with limited financial means.

DMCC, UAE

In March 2020, DMCC announced the roll-out of the Business Support Package, its largest incentive package to date. The package has subsequently been extended and expanded twice until the end of 2020. More than 8,000 member companies benefitted from over 13,000 offers throughout 2020.

The zone also introduced a set-up offer that allowed overseas companies to open an office in Dubai in just five working days with a free six-month trial period. In addition, DMCC formed an agreement with Emirates NBD to offer companies the opportunity to spread out payments for the zone’s services over multiple instalments at a 0% interest rate.

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, UK

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone launched a tourism recovery strategy to help businesses on the Fylde Coast recover post pandemic. The zone’s tenant companies can also access Blackpool Council’s Business Loans Fund, which aims to helps local businesses, create jobs and grow the local economy. It has been designed to complement capital grant schemes available in Lancashire, as well as other loan finance options.

Local impact

Winner

Łódź Special Economic Zone, Poland

Łódź Special Economic Zone has had a substantial impact on the local community. The zone supplied local hospitals and care homes with 2,000 protective masks, 100 visors and more than 500L of disinfectant liquids. It also donated €25,000 for the purchase of an ambulance for one of the regional hospitals.

Students at the zone’s Technical School of Automation and Robotics collected money to buy a 3D printer and together with their teachers printed more than 250 visors, which were then distributed to hospitals.

In addition, a helpline was established for local business representatives across all sectors, from manufacturing companies to hairdressers and supermarket workers, to ask for advice on how to run a business, the tools to maintain employment and Covid tax exemptions.

Runner up

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, Lithuania

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone donated protective gear, food and other supplies to the local community. The economic zone also brought together volunteers from its member companies for various external and internal initiatives.

Retal Baltic Films donated three tonnes of its materials and adjusted production lines to better suit local technology makers producing protective visors for medics. Pack Klaipeda also donated single-use packages to hospitals so that food could be safely delivered to medical staff and patients. In addition, AD REM organised efficient deliveries of the zone’s donations to hospitals, police, care homes and volunteers.

Honourable mentions

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

During 2020, CFZ made several significant charitable donations. The zone donated equipment, along with 5,000 reagents, to the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Education in Nutrition and Health to carry out PCR tests. CFZ also provided 36 sliding glass doors to the Alajuela Public Hospital to adapt their facilities to better serve Covid-19 patients. In addition, 50,000 face masks were donated to the Costa Rican Red Cross to provide protection for vulnerable people.

Pomeranian Special Economic Zone, Poland

Pomeranian Special Economic Zone’s Industrial Robot Programming Centre is one of the first centres of its kind, offering industry 4.0 training for vocational schools. The zone also operates patronage classes, for which it organises internships and apprenticeships.

In addition, it provides financial support to local hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages as well as sponsoring local football and fencing teams.

Lipetsk Special Economic Zone, Russia

The residents of Lipetsk Special Economic Zone are active across various charity programmes and projects. The zone supports schools and child development centres as well as sponsoring local sports and culture events.

New investment

Winner

Łódź Special Economic Zone, Poland

Despite the pandemic, Łódź Special Economic Zone was able to attract 38 new investment projects in 2020 from companies based in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Switzerland and the US. Investors included Switzerland-based eye-care company Alcon, which invested €19m in a global competence centre, creating and maintaining 400 jobs. Roldrob, part of France-based agri-feed company LDC Group, announced plans to invest more than €16m, creating and maintaining over 1,450 jobs, while Germany-based décor printer Interprint invested over €15m.

Runner-up

Special Economic Zone Technopolis Moscow, Russia

An additional 23 companies joined Special Economic Zone Technopolis Moscow in 2020. Private investments totalled $400m and more than 3,600 jobs are expected to be created. The largest tenants that established operations within the zone are in the medical, pharmaceutical and microelectronics industries.

Notable projects included Sputnik Technologies’ $150m high-tech, full-cycle pharmaceutical complex to produce the Covid-19 vaccine, NM-Tech’s $150m production facility for modern microelectronic components, and Oncotarget’s $15m site for the development and production of an anti-tumour drug.

Honourable mentions

Zonamerica Colombia, Colombia

There were several notable investments in Zonamerica Colombia in 2020. Nicaragua-based Accedo Technologies, a provider of business process outsourcing services to Fortune 500 companies, invested $3m in a new branch, which will serve the US market. Costa Rica-based software company Avantica invested $4m in a 650m2 facility for the US market and New York-based digital transformation consultancy Omnicon invested $1.5m in a 350m2 site.

DMCC, UAE

More than 2,000 new businesses established operations within DMCC in 2020. Although the majority were small businesses or start-ups using serviced offices or hot-desking, at least 500 companies invested in their own independent physical office space.

Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, UAE

Despite Covid, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority continued to attract new investments across different sectors. Notable investors include Luxembourg-based steel giant ArcelorMittal, which established a new 56,129m2 facility in January 2020, and India-based polymer compounder Kkalpana Industries, which opened a new 30,000m2 base.

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, UAE

In 2020, Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone welcomed over 3,500 new businesses. These included bottled water company Arabital Refreshment, scrap metal processor Ni Met Recycling and oil and gas equipment company Eversendai Offshore.

Red tape reduction

Winner

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, Lithuania

In 2020, Klaipeda ID, the city’s economic development agency, formed an agreement with 20 public sector institutions and seven municipal departments to facilitate closer cooperation and improve bureaucratic procedures. Based on this agreement, it will be four times quicker to issue building permits for businesses investing more than $3.48m and creating at least 20 jobs within the municipality’s territory. This ‘Green Corridor’ initiative is primarily aimed at attracting foreign direct investment but will also apply to domestic businesses operating in the city. The corridor will provide an additional competitive advantage for Klaipeda and will also apply to smaller investments.

Runner-up

Liepaja Special Economic Zone Authority, Latvia

In February 2021, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia agreed on the introduction of the ‘Green Channel’ procedure to reduce bureaucratic burdens and ensure quicker assessment of high value-added investment projects. State support will also be provided to encourage job creation. These regulations will promote further economic development within Liepaja and the wider region as well as help limit the negative impact of Covid-19 on business.

In addition, Latvia has joined the Once-Only Principle, an EU-funded, large-scale pilot project that aims to make interactions with government bodies easier. Under the initiative, people and businesses will only need to supply their data to public bodies once, and administrators will then be able to share the data internally.

Honourable mentions

Rezekne Special Economic Zone, Latvia

In November 2019, Latvia’s public administrations began to apply the ‘Zero Bureaucracy’ approach when drafting legislation. Under the initiative, when submitting a draft legal act to Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers, which increases the administrative burden, the responsible ministry must also submit a draft law reducing the burden on the same target group by an equivalent amount.

Latvia’s laws regarding special economic zone taxes were also amended in June 2020. Under the new regulations, commercial companies within Rezekne Special Economic Zone will be able to receive support not only for the initial long-term investments made, but also for the expected salary costs.

SEZ Innopolis, Russia

Companies planning to invest in SEZ Innopolis can submit their start-up applications online and are only required to provide two documents to register as a resident.

Following a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin within the zone in July 2020, measures were introduced to support the IT industry. From 2021, insurance contribution rates for IT representatives were reduced from 14% to 7.6%, and profit income tax rates lowered from 20% to 3%. In addition, Russian IT services are also exempt from marketing expenses abroad as part of a subsequent package of measures to support the industry.

DMCC, UAE

DMCC launched a set of new rules in January 2020 to make it easier to establish operations and do business within the zone. Key improvements include increased flexibility regarding a company’s articles of association, the introduction of different share types and an increased ability to transfer company incorporation into DMCC.

In May 2020, the zone also introduced the Employee Protection Insurance programme, which offers increased protection for member company employees. It will further boost the ease of doing business in DMCC by significantly reducing the cost of hiring new employees.

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, UAE

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone adapted quickly in the wake of the pandemic to bring its business set-up processes online. Investors can now register their company digitally, from application submission to licence issuance and visa processing.

In addition, the zone’s self-service client portal ‘RAKEZ Portal 360’ allows tenant companies to virtually submit service requests, settle their balances and download important documents.

 

Sustainability and ESG

Winner

Coyol Free Zone, Costa Rica

CFZ is fully aware of its duty to contribute to Costa Rica’s sustainable development, and as a result has made employment, education and the environment key areas of focus.

CFZ currently provides quality jobs to 16,500 people; 55% of which are women. The zone supports the professional development of its employees through training programmes, promotions and help achieving academic qualifications. More than 72 training courses have been carried out through the Join Coyol programme, which saw 2,074 people trained and 1,764 hired. In 2020, these courses went fully virtual to reach employees during the pandemic.

CFZ has also formed strategic alliances with education institutions to ensure employees have access to a wide range of skills and training. For instance, Costa Rica’s Institute of Technology offers a variety of master’s degree programmes and technical courses in specialist areas including logistics, business management and medical devices. The zone has also trained manufacturing operators with the support of the Costa Rica’s National Learning Institute, which provides specialist technical studies.

CFZ is the first ‘smart park’ in Costa Rica, providing investors with a fully redundant electrical grid, intelligent digital meters, and renewable sources for generation and storage of electricity. The zone is focused on strengthening its environmental management, reducing its energy consumption, and developing projects with environmental benefits. Initiatives included increased use of solar panels, sustainable construction, and management of suppliers by evaluating their environmental criteria. Almost 20% of the total free zone area is LEED certified and 13% of the park area has been dedicated to conservation.

Runner-up

Zona Franca Metropolitana, Colombia

ESG has been at the forefront of Zona Franca Metropolitana’s strategy since its conception. Colombia’s smallest free trade zone is committed to providing quality spaces and services through sustainable construction, communal recycling facilities, and an ecological park with pedestrian paths and bioclimatic devices. The zone is also investing $2m in a solar power plant to meet part of the park’s energy demand.

Honourable mentions

Hualing Free Industrial Zone, Georgia

Hualing Group is exclusively focused on investments that promote environmental sustainability, business growth and human development. The group works to promote low-carbon sources of energy, resource efficiency, efficient production methods, sustainable forms of transport and infrastructure resiliency, as well as human development and safety.

Łódź Special Economic Zone, Poland

Łódź Special Economic Zone monitors the impact potential investors have on the environment before granting permits. The zone also supports start-ups developing eco-friendly and renewable energy solutions such as WindTak and SmartPD. In terms of social impact, it provides local schools with equipment and financial support as well as organising free cultural events for the local community including picnics, drive-in cinemas, concerts.

ADGM, UAE

In January 2019, ADGM hosted the inaugural Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum. The forum facilitated the launch of several impactful initiatives by ADGM and its partners from the UAE and across the wider region. This included the ADGM-initiated Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Declaration, which brings together prominent government agencies and corporate champions to collectively commit to supporting the sustainable finance movement.

The zone worked with ten UAE financial regulators and exchanges to publish the UAE Guiding Principles on Sustainable Finance, an initiative based on the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. ADGM also facilitated the launch of the UAE’s first green sustainable real estate investment trust by Masdar.

Editor’s choice awards

Adapting to crisis

Zonamerica Colombia, Colombia

Zonamerica Colombia led the charge to reform Colombia’s free zone laws post Covid-19. Pre-pandemic, companies that established operations within a Colombian free zone were required to render 100% of their services within the free zone premises. In effect, initiatives such as working from home were prohibited.

Zonamerica helped bring about change to the free trade zone (FTZ) law, particularly regarding working from home. In March 2020, legislation was passed to permanently allow 50% of the workforce to operate inside the FTZ premises, and the other 50% elsewhere in the country. Companies can now consider talent from across the country while keeping their tax benefits.

In early 2021, Zonamerica also created a product that enables its tenants’ employees to work from home while using the free zone’s telecoms infrastructure. The zone leveraged the expertise of the three internet broadband carriers that have set up operations within its premises. Companies can connect with their remote employees through Zonamerica’s internet carriers, virtual desktops and cybersecurity services.

This increased flexibility appears to have paid off. When lockdown started, Zonamerica’s occupancy was 45% and by May 2021 it had more than doubled to 98%.

Liepaja Special Economic Zone Authority, Latvia

The tenants of Liepaja Special Economic Zone adapted rapidly in the wake of the pandemic by expanding their product portfolios, entering new markets, and continuing to invest in new manufacturing facilities. Companies are also increasing their raw material stocks and diversifying their supplies to safeguard against any future shocks.

Several companies began manufacturing personal protective equipment such as face masks and shields, including lingerie company Tonus Elast, and Liepaja Special Economic Zone Authority supported them in finding consumer markets. This resulted in the establishment of Baltic Masks, a certified respirator and face mask company, creating 80 new jobs.

Despite Covid, the average salary for the zone’s tenant companies was 28% higher than in the rest of Liepaja in 2020, the number of employees grew by 4.8% and manufacturing output increased by 8.9%. In addition, nine factories with a total area of 50,000m2 are currently in the construction or technical design phase.

Advocacy

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, UK

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone plays an active role in lobbying the UK government to extend the fiscal benefits of enterprise zones in England. The zone, alongside the wider local enterprise partnership network, is urging the government to reintroduce enterprise zones into their industrial strategy. A refreshed enterprise zone programme could aid the country’s economic recovery post Covid-19 as well as the challenges posed by Brexit. It can also play a key role in the regional levelling up agenda to encourage investment outside London and the South East of England.

Community support

Lipetsk Special Economic Zone, Russia

The residents of Lipetsk Special Economic Zone have always been active in charity projects, from supporting schools in the area to sponsoring community events. In the wake of the pandemic, the zone’s residents contributed both financially and non-financially. The Italian companies located within the zone jointly donated more than €200,000 to local social and welfare projects. Japan-based tyre manufacturer Yokohama donated over 200 tyre sets for Lipetsk Children’s Hospital’s ambulances. Germany-based life sciences giant Bayer also donated a large consignment of medical supplies to local healthcare institutions.

Covid fighters

Pomeranian Special Economic Zone, Poland

Pomeranian Special Economic Zone implemented various measures to fight Covid-19. The zone initiated the #FreeResources project, which encouraged entrepreneurs to donate disinfectants, health and safety products and medical equipment. The zone also made space available in the Gdańsk Science and Technology Park for Covid testing. In addition, the zone donated funds and equipment to several local hospitals, the Young Forest caring and educational institution, and the World Association of Home Army Soldiers.

Special Economic Zone Technopolis Moscow, Russia

The tenants of Special Economic Zone Technopolis Moscow have developed a range of high-tech solutions to combat Covid-19 across Russia. These include Sputnik Technopolis, which opened the largest production facility for Covid-19 vaccines in eastern Europe; and KIT, which produces one million medical face masks per day. Other companies actively contributing to the fight against Covid-19 include Additive Engineering, which has adapted its 3D printing facilities to manufacture protective reusable respirators made for breathing systems; Chirana, which donated difficult-to- source components for breathing equipment and anti-bacterial-virus filters to state hospitals; and Tzmoi, which increased its production of sterilisers and disinfection equipment for reusable medical tools for hospitals.

Digital connectivity

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, UK

In October 2020, Blackpool connected to a brand new transatlantic subsea fibre-optic cable network, delivering some of the world’s fastest and most resilient internet speeds. The new cable system, part of the North Atlantic Loop in the Aqua Comms network, can carry more than one-third of the world’s internet traffic and future-proofs internet capabilities for the mainland UK.

Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone has also included a new £7.5m Infrastructure Development Scheme in the city’s Town Deal Bid to increase development opportunities, improve access, and advance physical and digital capabilities. The scheme will generate 15 hectares of space for development opportunities.

Encouraging entrepreneurship

Rezekne Special Economic Zone, Latvia

Rezekne Special Economic Zone organises the Entrepreneurship Support Fund Project Competition, in which winners receive co-financing for a minimum of three projects per year. The competition focuses on different themes each year and in 2020 these were increasing energy efficiency, developing new technologies and employee training.

In 2020, support was granted to ten commercial companies for investments related to Covid-19 prevention and reduced transmission, including the purchase of thermal cameras, non-contact disinfection devices and protective equipment.

In 2019 and 2020, a total of 113 company employees attended training courses on topics including first aid, English language training, electric forklift training and management skills.

The zone also organises the work of the Entrepreneurship Commission, where six company representatives are delegated to promote problem solving and open a mutual dialogue.

Enhanced value

Astana-New City, Kazakhstan

Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, the residents of Astana-New City special economic zone increased the overall value of their products from $645m in 2019 to $1.9bn in 2020. This may be the result of government support and state initiatives to save the workforce and stimulate national economy.

In addition, 2020 was such a successful year for Astana-New City that the amount of taxes paid by its residents increased by 25% compared with 2019. This is especially impressive as companies within the zone are exempt from all major taxes except VAT.

Industry 4.0

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, Lithuania

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone has implemented several measures to improve digital connectivity for its member companies. Sweden-based telecommunications company Telia launched two 5G mobile stations within the zone in late 2020, making it Lithuania’s first industrial territory to be fully covered by a 5G network. A narrowband-IoT network will also be established by the end of 2021. These improvements will benefit companies within the zone, enabling to introduce industry 4.0, robotics and automation solutions.

Inter-institutional cooperation

Rezekne Special Economic Zone, Latvia

Rezekne Special Economic Zone is focused on promoting inter-institutional cooperation, particularly post-pandemic. The zone is actively involved in the development of Latgale Strategy 2030. The strategy has four main priorities; support for regional educational institutions; road infrastructure and transport development; promotion of urban and special economic zone territory development; and support for companies and investment attraction. The zone is working extensively with Rezekne City Council to launch a joint international investment attraction campaign.

One to watch

Prahovo Industrial Chempark, Serbia

Located on the bank of the Danube River and on the tripoint border of Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, Prahovo Industrial Chempark has been recognised as one to watch.

As the first industrial chemical park in Serbia, the zone offers investors sustainable solutions tailored to their needs within a larger manufacturing base. Companies can invest in their own production facilities while all other necessary infrastructure is already provided within the park. This concept allows companies to reduce their initial investment and launch their products quicker.

Prahovo’s long history in the chemicals sector and the existing infrastructure within the industrial complex create an ideal location for future industrial and logistical projects. The park will be an attractive investment destination for companies across Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.

Safety

ZF Santander Offshoring & Outsourcing Park, Colombia

ZF Santander Offshoring & Outsourcing Park was one of the first Columbian free zones to have its biosafety protocols accredited by the Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification. The zone implemented biosafety procedures quickly to guarantee the well-being of its tenants as well as the safe reopening of businesses. As a result, the free zone received an official visit from the economic minister in recognition of its contribution to economic reactivation.

Supporting start-ups

SEZ Innopolis, Russia

SEZ Innopolis has implemented various measures to assist start-ups with their development. The zone’s 85 start-ups were provided with service packages to help launch their operations. These packages helped significantly simplify business administration processes, save money, and focus resources on developing solutions.

Start-ups are offered preferential lease terms when looking for office space within the zone or access to workplaces in one of five co-working spaces. The technopark also regularly organises start-up meetups and other events to expand cooperation.

The zone has also launched a corporate accelerator, which brings together large Russian companies looking to digitalise their activities and start-ups that can meet their needs.

Sustainable energy

Zona Franca Metropolitana, Colombia

Zona Franca Metropolitana is developing a $2m solar energy plant to meet part of the park’s energy demand. A $1m electrical substation with an installed capacity of 8MW is also being constructed to meet customer demand.

Young talent

Zonamerica Colombia

Zonamerica Colombia has established partnerships with local universities to encourage recent graduates to start their careers within the free zone. As a result, nearly 80% of the employees within the free trade zone’s business park are under 35 years old.

Methodology

Investment Monitor’s 2021 Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards recognise the most resilient economic zones across the world following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. We invited economic zones of all types to complete a short survey demonstrating their zone’s excellence.

An internal panel of judges was appointed and reviewed each survey entry. Judges nominated their overall winning zone as well as a zone they felt deserved an honourable mention. In addition, each judge submitted a winner and honourable mentions in each of the following categories: digitisation, aftercare support, Covid relief packages, local impact, red tape reduction, new investment, and sustainability and ESG.

The background information asked for in the first section of the awards was used to provide context and was not used as part of the judging process.

Additional awards have been granted, at the editor’s discretion, to recognise noteworthy initiatives that sit outside the bounds of the fixed categories.

The awards are in association with Barcelona New Economy Week and Barcelona Zona Franca. For that reason, Barcelona Zona Franca did not submit an entry and was not considered for any of the awards.

Winners will be recognised in a virtual awards ceremony on 6 October 2021 as part of Barcelona New Economy Week.

Naomi Davies

Naomi Davies

FDI consultant

Naomi Davies is an FDI consultant at Investment Monitor, with expertise in location benchmarking and cross-border investment.