Château du Clos Lucé

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Leonardo da Vinci Prize


Leonardo da Vinci Prize

The Leonardo da Vinci Prize was created in 2011 on the initiative of the Henokiens Association of family businesses in existence for more than two hundred years and the Château du Clos Lucé - Parc Leonardo da Vinci, a cultural business and the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci.
The mission of the Château du Clos Lucé is to pass on the legacy, universal memory and knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci and to promote the value of highly skilled know-how.
The Henokiens Association, founded in 1981, devotes itself to standing up for and promoting the passing on of the intangible and living heritage of two-hundred-year-old family businesses all over the world.
The missions of the Château du Clos Lucé and Henokiens Association meet and converge in the tradition and passing on of an intangible, living heritage in the name of the figure who was the greatest possessor of universal talents.
The Leonardo da Vinci Prize  is part of the process of passing on our heritage in the sameway that Leonardo da Vinci passed on his skills to his pupils in the spirit ofthe Renaissance.
The Leonardo da Vinci Prize is awarded to a family business for its outstanding ability to pass onto future generations a set of cultural values and know-how and particular techniques that together make up an intangible and living heritage which are an essential guarantee of its continuity.
This heritage is expressed in the fidelity of these businesses to their traditions, their industry, a product or cause, a region or local area, and above all their family history.
Five fundamental values are necessary for the success of a heritage business and to enable it to be long-lasting.

  • History and tradition 
  • Business and family
  • Fidelity and commitment
  • Memory and passing on of heritage
  • Innovationand modernity

Selection Criteria

Quantitative criteria

 Target : family businesses of which the owner-directors are the main shareholders, either on their own or with members of their family.

  • Business longevity criterion: more than two generations
  • Turnover criterion: more than three million euros.

Qualitative criteria

Five fundamental values are necessary for the success of a heritage business and to enable it to be long-lasting.

  • History and tradition: tradition is at the heart of the mission of the heads of family businesses.
  •  Business and family: founding a family and founding a business involve similar commitments, which involve an ethical approach to business common to the whole family.
  •  Fidelity and commitment: the family business undertakes to ensure the continuation of a set of cultural and humanist values, skills and particular technologies that make up an "intangible and living heritage" that is an essential guarantee of continuity.
  •   Memory and passing on of heritage: the director of a family business does not simply leave a business to his or her successor but passes on a personal and original vision of his or her profession in a relationship with time that is considered to be a "raw material".
  •  Innovation and modernity: Preparing for the future is about anticipating. Like Leonardo da Vinci, family businesses must strive resolutely to innovate to remain competitive.

Donwload the conditions of entry


The 4thedition of the « Leonardo da Vinci Prize » has been awarded on September 24, 2015 in Tokyo to Mr. Koji Endo, President of Kai Corporation, by Princess Imperial Akiko de Mikasa, Mr. Willem van Eeghen, President of the Henokiens association and Mr. François Saint Bris, President of the Château du Clos Lucé-Parc Leonardo da Vinci, in the presence of Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, Japanese MP, former minister of Education and Foreign Affairs.

Founded in 1908 by Saijiro Endo, Kai Corporation is a pocketknife manufacturer in the city of Seki (Gifu Prefecture), known as the largest city of blades in Japan with a history of 800 years. Today, Kai manufactures more than 10,000 different kinds of cutlery and cutting tools, ranging from kitchen utensils to cosmetic accessories and surgical implements. Managed by Koji Endo (3rd generation) the company, 100% owned by the founding family, has achieved a turnover of 429 million Euros in 2013 for a total sales of more than 4 million units in Asia, Europe and USA.

In his speech, the Henokiens President Willem van Eeghen wished to recall that the «Leonardo da Vinci Prize» is awarded to family companies that have demonstrated an exceptional ability to transmit to future generations a set of cultural values and know how forming a living heritage and, as such, these companies have all the intangible and essential guarantees for continuity. He stressed how important Kai, having reached more than one hundred years of age, had remained true to its creed « humanity before productivity”, illustrating the exceptional ability of its family and staff to transmit a corporate culture and original techniques while demonstrating a wonderful combination of tradition, innovation and modernity in building a worldwide reputation.
Finally, Willem van Eeghen concluded by saying that in the city of Seki, there lies a spirit called nokaji (blacksmith), which drives superior craftsmen to put their hearts into every piece of cutlery and cutting tool they create. It is this spirit which lies at the heart of what Kai does allowing us to say that Kai is a true supporter of the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci.

François Saint Bris said he is particularly proud and grateful to pay tribute to a Japanese exemplary company, Kai Corporation, funded by Saijiro Endo in Seki, Japan’s most celebrated blade city. He sees in this passion for the blade and its applications a very close relationship between this manufacturing city, also renowned for producing Samurai’ swords, with the works of Leonardo da Vinci. During his entire life, Leonardo designed all kinds of magnificent weapons such as daggers, swords or halberds, using blades for scientific purposes for the dissection of human cadavers attesting to an astonishing work in investigating the human body, which he described as a “marvellous machine”.

Finally, François Saint Bris wanted to stress how Kai Corporation perfectly embodies and illustrates the vision, commitment and loyalty of a family to a tradition, an industry and a geographical area, while maintaining an innovative attitude and prestigious reputation all over the world, principles shared throughout the company which today make its strength and its identity.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Koji Endo, President of Kai Corporation (3rd generation of the Endo family in the company) first said he was honored to receive the «Leonardo da Vinci Prize » from her imperial highness, Princess Akiko. Mr. Endo said that receiving this award represents both a privilege and an encouragement to follow his efforts and commitments in and for the company. He wished to thank his grandfather, the founder, his father and his family accompanying him today, as well as clients, suppliers, the partners of the company and all employees for their dedication. Mr. Koji Endo considers that receiving such an award will encourage him to make his company grow in respect of its products and its consumers.

Mr. Endo said that in the town of Seki, one of the techniques used by the Japanese sword smiths was called “alternate folding and forging”. This process consisted of heating an iron lump, beating it, folding it into half and then beating it again, and repeating the folding-forging steps for about fifteen times to finally shape the iron into a sword. Through the process of repeated beating, flattening and folding, impurities are
removed in order to create Japanese swords, famed for their hardness, sturdiness and unbendable features. Mr. Endo thinks that his family business history is somewhat similar to the sword forging process by being forged and strengthened through different challenges and generations.

In conclusion, Mr. Endo said he would like to uphold his mission as the laureate of the “Leonardo da Vinci Prize” and remain as a family business that continues to benefit society. Finally he wished to extend his heartfelt gratitude for her highness, Princess Akiko, the President of the Henokiens, the President of Le Château du Clos Lucé and all the Henokiens members.
The "Leonardo da Vinci Prize" trophy created by the company Mellerio dits Meller, member of the Henokiens association, represents the flying propeller originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It symbolizes the desire of Henokiens to infinitely continue their family mission to serve businesses.

Download the press release 2014

Leonardo da Vinci Prize 2013