Swiss Biotech Industry Bullish Despite Currency Effects

Michelle Remo, “Big 4″ observer
April 06, 2012 /

Despite negative currency effects and the continuing economic weakness which affected all export-driven industries, 2011 was a surprisingly good year for the Swiss biotech industry.

The volume of investment in private and listed Swiss biotech companies increased sharply compared with the previous year, suggesting positive signs.

The Steering Committee, consisting of representatives of various public institutions and Swiss companies, is responsible for publishing the annual Swiss Biotech Report.

The 2012 Report highlights the main forces driving innovation and summarises facts and figures relating to the development of the local biotech industry.

Net sales amounted to a total of CHF 8,696 million, representing a decrease of 558 million compared with the previous year. The decline is mainly attributable to the weakness of the US dollar and the Euro against the Swiss franc.

The industry suffered a total loss of CHF 350 million, which can also be attributed to the negative exchange rate influences CHF – Euro and CHF – USD, as well as to non-recurring items concerning individual companies.

Investments in private and listed companies, however, increased compared with the previous year by 203 to 458 million. Viewed over the long term, the investments made in 2011 are again at a high level.

At the end of 2011, the industry showed a net increase of 12 companies. This brings the total number of companies in the industry to 249 (excluding branches of foreign companies and the biotech activities of large Swiss pharmaceutical and agrochemical firms).

The number of employees has risen slightly to just under 19,200.

The higher investments, as well as the start-ups and influx of companies from other places, emphasise the fact that the appeal of and confidence in the biotech sector have increased again and that the industry is able to hold its ground, even in economically difficult times.

The reasons for this can be found in the various innovation drivers which impact on the innovative capacity and therefore the economic success of the Swiss biotech sector. The federal government, academia, the biotech industry and the financial sector jointly ensure that the right framework conditions are in place: for example, the federal government supports the foundation and expansion of start-ups, as well as application-based research and development, via its institutions, such as the innovation promotion agency (CTI).

Among other things, funding for coordinated research with a clearly defined objective is available for a limited period through the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). This speeds up the transfer of knowledge and technology between academia and the industry, resulting in a large number of patents.

The Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences are further drivers of innovation. Basic and applied research in the fields of biology, biotechnology and process engineering are well-established and produce qualified and competitive professionals for the biotech sector.

An additional factor is the high Swiss quality of life, which is evidenced by, among other things, the political and economic stability, the high purchasing power, as well as the good social security system. This enables Switzerland to attract the best students and scientists from both neighbouring countries and further afield.

The Swiss Biotech Association supports this targeted networking of the federal government, academia, the biotech industry and the financial sector, with a view to further encouraging and extending innovation drivers. This is the only way in which the Swiss biotech industry can remain competitive and retain its leading global position.

The number of companies from French-speaking Switzerland in the SBA is steadily increasing. For this reason, the SBA has set up a point of contact in the French-speaking part of Switzer-land. Jean Marc Tissot, Managing Director of biôpole (SBA member), performs this duty and will now be a member of the SBA board.


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