The judges singled out the free zones that especially impressed them in certain areas. Below we list the honourable mentions in fDi’s Global Free Zones of the Year 2021, and their standout qualities.

Lithuania’s Klaipeda Free Zone, for EU regulation compliance


Tony Restall: “I identified it as doing a great job within the confines of the EU regulations.” 

Brazil’s Manaus Free Trade Zone, for logistics adjustment

Tony Restall: “There is a cost and an environmental cost – the value of which, I believe we are now fast realising, is very high. Manaus FTZ has had logistic delivery difficulties in the past and it has addressed them with transport gateways through Venezuela and now possibly through Guyana.” 

Dubai’s DMCC, for leadership

Tony Restall: “The DMCC has become too big to ignore. Strong leadership is essential to attract foreign direct investment.”

Dominican Republic’s Corporación Zona Franca Santiago, for its focus on the wellbeing of people


Richard Bolwijn: “The zone focuses on the quality of life of the working community and surrounding neighbourhoods, and encourages social coexistence through the realisation of wellbeing activities. Social practices in the zone illustrate the benefits SEZs could have on the broader community, by offering services that would benefit both employees and the inhabitants of the surrounding communities, offering a better quality of life for both, including residential areas, healthcare and education facilities, recreational areas and other services.”

India’s Sri City, for environmental practices

Richard Bolwijn: “High environmental standards are increasingly becoming a feature of SEZs. Sri City has maintained good environmental practices for years, limiting the potential negative environmental impact of the zone on the region. The zone meets all the pollution parameters for the past 12 years and has never defaulted; it is the only industrial park in India that does not use groundwater. The zone also minimises non-renewable energy consumption by using recycled products. It has green spaces to regulate air quality and reduce air temperature and also minimises waste through the centralised management of effluents and sewage.”

Preston Martin: “My honourable mention for environment practices went to Sri City for the investment and implementation of sustainable and green infrastructure in a new urban environment, unifying industrial and residential best practices for a contemporary built environment.”

Russia’s SEZ Technopolis Moscow, for the development of medical technologies and pharmaceuticals related to Covid-19 

Richard Bolwijn: “During the pandemic, the mission of the zone was aimed at medical cluster development. It has implemented unique medical projects, including the first registered vaccine for Covid-19 prevention, Sputnik-V; a portable artificial lung ventilation device for patients with complications after coronavirus infection; and it manufactured disinfection equipment and medical gas supply systems for the main anti-Covid hospital. The zone demonstrates the strong impact SEZs can have on medical development. They can play an important role in scientific research and the development of medical technologies.”

Preston Martin: “Technopolis showed an excellent and holistic Covid-19 response by combining local government collaboration; measures against the spread of Covid-19; support to affected enterprises; mobilisation of relevant enterprises in the struggle against the pandemic; and their overall strategy adaptation.”

Dominican Republic’s Corporación Zona Franca Santiago, for infrastructure planning and implementation

Preston Martin: “Corporación Zona Franca Santiago showed progress in planning and developing modern infrastructure for their free zone, including renewable energy generation, health and tech campuses, a botanical park, and residential centres.”

China’s Dalian Free Trade Zone, for aquaculture

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “Norwegian aquaculture specialist Morenot Dalian Dykorn is set to invest $5m into a new automatic logistics warehouse at its existing operations, building upon Dalian’s ocean-oriented development strategy.”

Russia’s Innopolis SEZ, for automated driving

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “Russian tech giant Yandex has been testing unmanned food delivery in the park. Over the last two years, about 12,000 local trips have been made by unmanned taxis.” 

Poland’s Katowice SEZ and Pomeranian SEZ, for electric vehicle technology 

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “SK Hi-Tech Battery Materials Poland invested €860.8m into the production of separators for lithium-ion batteries, building its third and fourth factories in Poland in the Katowice SEZ. Meanwhile, Sweden-based Northvolt will build a highly automated and modern production plant and a research and development centre for battery modules, and solutions for energy storage and production processes, in the Pomeranian SEZ.”

Poland’s Łódź SEZ and Lithuania’s Klaipeda FEZ, for 5G innovation

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “Łódź SEZ has built its own 5G campus network, where start-ups can test solutions and demonstrate 5G-related products.”

Jacopo Dettoni: “In December 2020, Klaipeda FEZ became the first industrial territory in Lithuania to be fully covered by a 5G network. This underscores the zone’s efforts in upgrading its connectivity infrastructure to underpin industry 4.0 applications.” 

Brazil’s Companhia Administradora da Zona de Processamento de Exportação do Ceará, for digitisation of services

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “The zone moved from a totally face-to-face and paper-based way of working to a 100% paperless and computerised model. This included the use of QR codes on cell phones for entry to the park.”

Russia’s Dubna SEZ, for its tenants’ work in fighting Covid-19

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “WestMedGroup, based in Dubna, has opened a new workshop for medical equipment, including for the treatment of Covid-19. Other biomedical companies, such as PSK Pharma, Granat Bio Tech, Ailiton, Polex Beauty, ELS-MED, MedipalTECH and others, quickly repurposed their production towards new technologies to combat coronavirus.”

Kenya’s Tatu City Special Economic Zone, for workforce training

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “Tatu City provides free skills training to members of the local community, issuing them with nationally recognised qualification certificates. The zone has trained more than 1000 people and serves 1400 meals daily to local state primary schools.”

Dubai’s DMCC, Costa Rica’s Coyol Free Zone and UAE’s Ajman Free Zone, for sustainability reporting 

Jacopo Dettoni: “Both the DMCC and Coyol Free Zone have published sustainability reports, while Ajman Free Zone is in the process of publishing its first sustainability report. The DMCC also created a financial incentive for its members to join and comply with the UN Global Compact by providing a business licence discount between 10% and 30%, along with the coverage of their annual membership fees. These kinds of measures are setting a new benchmark for best practices and sustainability in free zones.”

Panama’s Panamá Pacifico, for off-grid power sourcing

Jacopo Dettoni: “Panamá Pacifico created for one of their clients the first energy micro-grid, with solar energy panels on roofs and industrial-level battery for electric self-consumption in Panama and Central America.”

South Korea’s Daegu-Gyeongbuk Free Economic Zone, for virtual reality (VR) marketing

Jacopo Dettoni: “The Daegu-Gyeongbuk Free Economic Zone built a virtual zone to best showcase its assets at a distance, and held a virtual zone/augmented reality investment summit in late 2020. Following that experience, it set up a VR/AR R&D centre with private investors, to foster further research into these kinds of applications.”  

For the full coverage and list of the global and regional winners, please watch this video or download a PDF of the full awards.