A leading hub for global life sciences companies, Coyol Free Zone is also delivering a bright future to local people, and the planet
Located in Costa Rica at the heart of the Americas, Coyol Free Zone has become one of the top clusters on the continent for investments related medical device manufacturing and life sciences.
Recently, it has been paving the way for smart manufacturing companies such as Teradyne, following the leading-edge trend of a high level of integration between machines and information systems, through the optimisation of manufacturing processes. For over 15 years, Coyol Free Zone (the Free Zone) has consistently improved its services for its clients, while attracting more high-profile-companies, promoting expansion and reinvestment.
As word of the Free Zone spread, a host of reputed organisations recognised it as best-in-class across multiple categories, sometimes for consecutive years. The park currently holds the title of “Best Free Zone” in the Americas, and one of the top 10 globally. It has also been recognised in Latin America as the “Best Free Zone for SMEs”, and “Best Business for Life Science & Advanced Manufacturing”, among others.
Furthermore, the outstanding growth of the park has led it to host seven of the top 30 global medical device companies, according to a 2022 report by Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO). These are Medtronic, Abbott, Philips, Cardinal Health, Microvention-Terumo, Smith & Nephew, and Hologic. Furthermore, the Free Zone is home to the Abbott pharmaceutical company and the German chemical-pharmaceutical company Bayer, thus reaffirming its impact as a specialised cluster for the life sciences industry.
The key to such success is a business model that embraces environmental awareness, while aligning with several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to assure a better future for the stakeholders and for Costa Rica. In addition, the 33 world-class companies in Coyol Free Zone significantly boost the growing exports of Costa Rica’s medical device sector, representing 52% of the products of this category sent overseas. Its industrial output also accounts for 30% of the exports of the manufacturing segment of the Costa Rican Free Trade Regime.
A winning formula
As illustrated in fig.1 Coyol Free Zone’s numbers speak for themselves – and the impact of this performance on Costa Rica’s economy results in more than $2bn worth of exports every year.
It is worth noting that Costa Rica is becoming of the best destinations worldwide for life sciences manufacturers. Currently, it is the second-ranked country in Latin America for the export of medical devices, controlling 24% of the regional market, outperformed only by Mexico. The influx of investment also means quality job opportunities for thousands of workers across all skill levels.
The companies established in the industrial park have created more than 22,000 direct jobs, in addition to more than 3,000 jobs generated by subcontractors that operate full-time in the Free Zone. Such figures place Coyol Free Zone at the top of quality employment generation in the Free Trade Zone Regime of Costa Rica. It is important to mention that these jobs come with training opportunities from the companies, and joint programmes with private and public entities, that provide candidates with the skills necessary to work in the medical devices and manufacturing industries.
For instance, in 2022, the Free Zone provided educational opportunities to more than 3,000 people, including Manufacturing Operator and English courses. In this way, public-private alliances fostered by Coyol Free Zone contribute to the educational development of the population and allow them to have employment opportunities in industries looking to fill vacancies, thus tackling the unemployment problem that Costa Rica faces.
“Solidarity is fundamental to our training initiatives. With a diverse range of opportunities open to the community, it to promotes employability and attracts skilled talent, which is of huge benefit the companies operating in the park,” says Carlos Wong, Managing Director of Coyol Free Zone.
What seals the deal at Coyol Free Zone is its worldclass infrastructure and on-site services that make producing and exporting more seamless than it often is in other countries. The park has created the ideal conditions for exporting medical devices directly from Costa Rica. This includes on-site suppliers that provide sterilisation services (ETO & E Beam), packaging, moulding, extrusion, assembly, and logistics services, among many others. As a result, the Free Zone clients – as well as enjoying all the competitive advantages that Costa Rica offers – significantly reduce time and costs on production, transportation, and warehousing.
“The business ecosystem in Coyol Free Zone has integrated companies that provide goods and services, reducing costs and maximising the time and resources of companies exporting directly from Costa Rica to their final markets. The result is a notable increase in the productivity and competitiveness of all the companies that operate in the park,” Wong explains.
Not only do the services and infrastructure deliver maximum efficiency, but they also deliver the sustainability goals so essential to today’s business leaders. As part of its model for sustainable real estate development, Coyol Free Zone focuses on innovation and continuous improvement to identify and develop new projects that allow for a better development of the park.
A recent project that has demonstrated extremely positive effects is Ride Coyol: a sustainable transport service that reduces the social and environmental impact of those who work in the Free Zone. The 200 buses that use the park each day utilise an electronic payment system which saves 8.3 tonnes of paper per year, by eliminating the need to print 20,000 tickets daily.
In terms of construction management systems, almost all the companies operating from Coyol Free Zone seek more efficient construction materials to achieve savings in building operation, including LEED Certification. This includes Solar-E glass that allows light to pass through but does not heat the interior, insulated roof coverings that reduce heat load, and the possibility of collecting and reusing rainwater in the cooling and sanitation systems.
Moreover, all the companies operating in the park have spaces that promote the wellbeing and holistic care of the employees, providing the ideal conditions for their productivity, safety and comfort. One of the aspects that impresses workers and visitors alike are the green spaces. A network of gardens and trees that coexist harmoniously with the buildings and manufacturing – indeed, many visitors describe it as “the green Free Zone.”
The Free Zone policy of conserving green areas is designed to protect water resources, preserve native tree species and offer a recreational component for workers and visitors.
“Our efforts to maintain green areas have paid off in terms of conservation and protection of vital natural resources for the planet. It also attracts new companies that wish to operate in a place where environmental sustainability is demonstrated through decisive action,” says Wong.
More to come: Evolution Free Zone
The concepts that make Coyol Free Zone such a successful industrial park have been expanded to a new free zone that will set a new milestone for Costa Rica: Evolution Free Zone.
As the name suggests, this state-of-the-art business park aims to provide turnkey, tailor-made solutions for industrial buildings, and take them to another level. Using the latest industry trends to accomplish this, the successful methodology has been improved and perfected over the last 20 years by CODE Development Group, who also developed Coyol Free Zone.
“Turnkey means that we accompany our clients from the conceptualisation and design of the building up to the moment it is ready to operate. We make the client’s project our own project”, added Álvaro Carballo, President of CODE Development Group.
As with Coyol Free Zone, companies will also be welcomed by world-class infrastructure and a skilled, technical and professional talent pool. Evolution Free Zone will offer a major competitive advantage to multinationals, with over 124 hectares of land, allowing them to meet the demands of long-term growth. It also has direct access to Route 1 and quick access to the main highways and ports of the country and is only 15 minutes away from Costa Rica’s most important airport. Another of its valuable assets is its Park Management System, a ground-breaking technological tool to respond more efficiently to the needs of the park and its clients.
For example, this system can control and manage a whole host of things, ranging from lights with motion sensors, which adapt their intensity accordingly, to perimeter cameras that will allow real-time monitoring and detection of incidents that need to be addressed quickly.
Additionally, the park will embrace a sustainable concept, with strategies for rainwater reuse, green mobility, and clean energy generation, among many other efforts. Evolution Free Zone started the construction of infrastructure works and buildings at the end of 2022 in Tacares de Grecia, Alajuela. It will create over 20,000 high-quality jobs in the next 15 years. In its first stage, CODE Development Group is expected to invest $50m of a total of $200m for the project.
“Evolution Free Zone aspires to become a global benchmark for attracting foreign direct investment, transforming the western region of Costa Rica, and creating opportunities for all its stakeholders,” concludes Carballo.