Sixth Round Table on Italian Technology & Italian FDI
With a spotlight on the Pharmaceutical and Chemical Industries, CCI-NC's 6th Round Table on Italian Technology and Foreign Direct Investment (program) took place on Monday, October 17, 2022 at the Alumni Center on NC State University's Centennial campus.
Presented by the Honorary Consul of Italy to NC and CCI-NC, with support from the Consulate General of Italy in Philadelphia, this Round Table event welcomed H.E. Mariangela Zappia, Italian Ambassador to the United States, as our distinguished guest speaker. Also in attendance were Hon. Cristiana Mele, Consul General of
Italy in Philadelphia; Dr. Valentina Cecchi, Honorary Consul of Italy to North Carolina; Sec. Elaine F. Marshall, Secretary of State for North Carolina; and several high-profile representatives from NC State University.
The evening began with a Welcome Reception where guests could meet and mingle with Ambassador Zappia, Consul General Mele, Dr. Cecchi, and our panelists. During the networking portion, guests enjoyed beverages and a lovely charcuterie board, with tasty items from Italy on display. We were particularly excited to see the number of students who came out to learn how Italian companies are impacting the Pharmaceutical and Chemical Industries here in North Carolina. Toward the end of the Reception, Dr. Cecchi and Mr. Frank Buckless, Dean of the Poole College of Management, formally welcomed everyone, as CCI-NC partnered with the Poole College of Management for the event.
After the Reception, guests took their seats for the Round Table. Following brief remarks by Dr. Cecchi, Ambassador Zappia gave an impressive overview of Italy's economy, with a particular focus on their dominance in the Pharma industry (and life sciences in general).
Guests learned that Italian GDP grew by 6.6% in 2021, despite their struggles with the pandemic, with continued growth in 2022. Bilateral trade in goods between Italy and the U.S. was around $83B in 2021. A clear example of Italy's innovation is the life sciences sector, which accounts for 11% of the Italian GDP. They have 6 science parks, 12 dedicated life sciences centers of excellence, 16
national research centers dedicated to life science, and 50 universities with programs related to the field. They are the fastest pharmaceutical exporter in Europe over the last 10 years and they have a strong mix of large and small- to medium-sized companies. Many Italian companies come to North Carolina due to the favorable business environment, an excellent network of research centers, and high-quality infrastructure, not to mention the high quality of life for workers and families. In 2021, exports from Italy to North Carolina increased by $2B, making Italy the 10th country for export in the state. Below you can watch Ambassador's full speech. This was just one stop on Ambassador Zappia's mission to North Carolina (click here to learn more).
Prof. Stefano Menegatti then took over as moderator for the panelists. Each speaker was given the opportunity to talk about their company before we opened it up for a larger discussion on the role of Italians in the industry.
First up, we had Mr. Jon Zwinski, the CEO and General Manager of Chiesi USA. Mr. Zwinski's passion for what they do at Chiesi was on full display as he gave more information on the company's history and what they do here in North Carolina. The company was founded in Parma, Italy in 1935, and their U.S. headquarters is in Cary, NC. Their focus on R&D is quite impressive - reinvesting 20% of their annual revenue each year, which is unheard of in the pharma industry. They are committed to the future and giving back. They have 6,000 employees worldwide, and 900 of them work in R&D at 7 facilities across the globe. Of their 300 U.S. employees, 20-25 are scientists focusing on the regulatory process for new drugs. They've been recognized as being one of the top 25 small biotech or pharma places to work in the U.S. They are also a B-corp, which among other things, means as CEO, he can put environmental concerns at the same level of focus as
returning value to the shareholders. And while you may not recognize any of their drugs, they specialize in critical care, neonatology, and Cystic Fibrosis. Most products are given in the hospital setting as injectibles and are all life-saving medications. They are expanding in the U.S., so expect to hear more about them in the future!
Mrs. Jessica Astoria, the Director of Engineering for Comi Polaris Systems, was there to tee up our next two speakers from Comi Condor and Polaris, who flew over from Italy just for this event. Comi Polaris Systems, located in Charlotte, NC, is the North American operations of those two Italian companies. Comi Condor was founded in 1920 and manufactures industrial centrifuges. They have 2 offices near Milan, one for commercial activities and engineering, and their 6,000 m2 workshop. Polaris has been around for over 25 years and has 5 International
patents for its cryogenic gas technologies. They are located in Misinto, Italy, and have a 15,000m2 workshop along with their commercial and engineering space, which they share with their partner company Delta Costruzioni Meccaniche. Mrs. Astoria works with customers in North America, providing the engineering support for these customizable separation technologies.
Dr. Amir Fadel, the Lead Engineer and Technical Manager at Comi Condor, SpA, was then able to delve more into the nitty-gritty of how these industrial centrifuges work. They are used for a variety of industries, including Pharmaceutical and Chemical, to separate solids from liquids. One of the things that make their company stand out is the sheer size of these machines - Comi Condor can make the largest in the world! Plus, they are the only OEM that can manufacture all types of centrifuges. And the entire production cycle is done in-house, which controls the machines' overall quality.
Finally, Mr. Mario Masetto, the Chief Operating Officer and Project Manager for Polaris, srl, was able to expand on what Mrs. Astoria presented and speak to the technology itself, current projects, and relationships they have with research centers (no doubt the connections made with NC State will help add to that list). Polaris is particularly proud of its human capital where almost 50% of its workforce are women. Mr. Masetto linked Polaris's technology to Chiesi. Some of Chiesi's medicines are delivered through inhalers. To test whether the inhalers work, Chiesi uses propellant gas in the manufacturing process. Polaris's technology captures the emitted gas molecules and turns them back into a liquid form to dispose of them safely and in an
environmentally-friendly way. A recent project that is particularly interesting is the tallest distillation column in the world - standing at 350m, which is higher than the Eiffel Tower - that was developed for the University of Princeton to separate isotopes. The column is actually sunk into an old mine shaft in Sardinia. Also with the University of Princeton and the National Science Foundation, Polaris developed a plant to capture Aragon molecules from a pipeline that runs from Colorado to Texas. The gas in the pipeline is used to help push up oil in the wells in Texas. But Helium and Argon were found in the line and they wanted to capture these valuable resources. While Polaris's plants are quite large, they are delivered on pre-fabricated skids, which makes installation at the customer's sites relatively simple.
After the presentations, Prof. Menegatti lead the moderated discussion. We heard more about Chiesi's focus on patient groups that are underserved (for example, diseases with less than 1,000 patients), and how research institutes in the U.S. value the know-how of Italians in this industry (and their hunger and zeal in attacking new projects). Prof. Menegatti asked about the balance between competition and cooperation, which was highlighted by the COVID vaccination. Mr. Zwiniski said we need to think "glocally" and Mrs. Astoria highlighted the trust in relationships. Mr. Masetto pointed out that the internet made the world small, which means you have to be the best in an open market for customers to come to you. And the pandemic reduced this distance further with the ability to work from home, which can make the job more difficult. Your technology has to be very well tested and you have to have proven remote support. Italian companies have creativity, ingenuity, and history (these companies have between 50-100 years of experience); there is synergy with U.S. businesses; a hunger to always keep improving; and a real sense of family as a core value and foundation of the company culture. If you aren't partnering with an Italian company, you are surely missing out!
attendance before they were surprised by a special announcement by the Board of CCI-NC. We are expanding our Italian Language Scholarship program and will begin to award an NC State student with the grant each years along with a student at UNC Charlotte. We hope this helps them expand their program and attract top talent, as this series demonstrates there are businesses here in North Carolina that would love to employ business school students with Italian language skills.
After the Round Table, special guests were invited to the Private Dinner where they could continue the discussion and make impactful connections. Sec. Marshall and Mr. Kevin Howell, the Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Partnerships, and Economic Development at NC State University, welcomed Ambassador Zappia, and she spoke briefly thanking everyone for the wonderful event.
We wrapped the Round Table with an overview of the International Business Dual Degree Program, presented by Mr. Robert Sandruck, the Director of Global Programs and Undergraduate Programs at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. Particiants study in 2 countries, at 2 universities, in 2 languages, complete 2 internships, and receive 2 degrees - all in 4 years. The Italian track is just one of the programs offered through NC State, but for obvious reasons, it is one we champion! Mr. Sandruck gave a special shoutout to all the students in
The 6th Round Table could not have been possible without our event sponsors: