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The Panda d’Oro award turns seven, celebrates growing relationship of Italian SMEs with China

by Rita Fatiguso

How much progress have Italian companies made in China? We are talking about a thousand different realities, undergoing great change -- just like China itself, for that matter -- which face a demanding market and complex challenges, including the exploration of new areas in a country with gigantic dimensions.

The Panda d’Oro Award, organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, offered a chance to take the temperature of the outlook and the sentiment of this diverse business community.

The seventh edition of the award -- which this year boasts the media partnership of Gruppo 24 Ore and ItalyEurope24 -- took place in Shanghai on June 18.

The Chinese economy is changing and businesses must accept these changes and respond in an appropriate manner. Now as never before it is necessary to work together, pointed out Ambassador Ettore Sequi in the event’s opening address.

“China’s economy is changing its skin, and companies must deal with these changes and respond in an adequate way,” Sequi told business leaders in his speech. “Nevertheless, there has never been a more important moment for all players to work together.”

There were three nominees in each of the eight award categories. Each one represents a different way of coming to (and staying in) China. For Sergio Bertasi, the new President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, “the Panda Award represents an essential moment of union for this business community, for discussion and commitment for further steps in China.”

“The Panda d’Oro China” Award, dedicated to Italian companies that had the greatest growth on the Chinese market in 2015 and are looking to make further investments in the 2016/2017 period, was won by Giacomini Heating, the Piedmont company, active in China since 2000.

“The ’Ethic Panda’ Award went to Ferrero, maker of Nutella, the Italian company that has distinguished itself for the best approach and for the realization of Corporate Social Responsibility values even through its commitment to supporting promotional activities of the system.

But, above all, Ferrero entered the Chinese market with products for the local market with a style consistent with the Ferrero tradition even in the factory inaugurated last fall in Hangzhou.

“The Best Project Panda” Award, which honors the Italian company that created the best project for the promotion of Italy in China, went to In3act, while “The Time-Honoured Panda” Award, dedicated to an Italian company long-rooted in the Chinese market, went to Magneti Marelli.

For “The Best Italian SME” category, dedicated to Italian small and medium enterprises that have increased their productivity and competitiveness in the industrial sector, the top award was won by Loccioni of the Marche region.

“The Innovative Panda” Award category, which is given to the start-up with the best business idea for the Chinese market, was won by Icona, the auto design company which is developing especially innovative creations in China also in collaboration with local partners.

“The Friendship Panda” Award, dedicated to the Chinese company that has contributed the most to the activities of the Chamber and that maintains collaborative relations with Italy went to Zhenjiang Industrial Park, involved in projects important for many Italian companies in China.

Finally, for the educational category, “The Educational Panda” Award was given this year to an Italian reference point in research and training in China: the Politecnico di Milano, in the spotlight for a series of initiatives developed this year in China.

On June 16, not surprisingly, the opening of the Politecnico’s Chinese Legal Entity branch in Shanghai (the legal headquarters is in Beijing) was celebrated.

“After more than a decade of presence in China,” states Giuliano Noci, the vice-rector for China, “the signing of strategic partnerships with the leading Chinese universities, a campus in Shanghai and the forthcoming opening of the Center for Innovation in Xi’an, the Politecnico di Milano intends to offer real support to our Italian companies present in China, having as a reference system not only China, but all of Asia. From a system viewpoint, of course, and that’s why we are working with the Embassy, Consulate in Shanghai and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China.”