Access to Ecosystem

Here’s why a location in Switzerland makes your company thrive. 

Switzerland is a global leader in biotech, medtech and pharma. Find out what makes the Swiss life science industry unique and how your life science company can thrive in Switzerland’s ecosystem. 

woman looking at test tube with orange liquid in it

The European single market is the world’s second largest market for pharma products and medical devices. However, it is also complex and fragmented. A strong ecosystem - like the one in Switzerland - that fosters partnerships and collaborations can provide significant benefits to companies that plan to expand operations in Europe. 

How Switzerland compares to other life sciences hubs

  • With Roche and Novartis, headquartered both in Basel, two out of the top five global pharma players call Switzerland their homebase.
  • In a 2021 analysis of product pipelines by Biotechgate, Switzerland has the strongest product pipeline in Europe, after the UK. However, a review of the Phase III products places Switzerland ahead of the UK. 
  • Rising competitiveness leads to rising prosperity. The Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation measures economic freedom of countries based on freedom of trade, business freedom, investment freedom and property rights. In its 2020 ranking of European countries, Switzerland was among the top 5 countries
  • The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook measures how well countries manage their resources and competences to facilitate long-term value creation. In its 2021 ranking of European countries, Switzerland ranked 1st place
  • The FM Global Resilience Index ranks the resilience of 130 countries according to their enterprise resilience to disruptive events. Switzerland ranks among the top 5 countries
  • Disruptions to manufacturing or logistics can have a significant impact on supply chains. In a 2020 quality of infrastructure ranking by IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Switzerland ranks 3rd when it comes to the quality of overall infrastructure. 
  • The level of innovation in a country is particularly relevant when choosing a new R&D or manufacturing location. The European Innovative Scoreboard compares innovation in European countries and assesses the strength of national innovation systems. In its 2021 assessment, Switzerland ranks 1st place and stands out as the clear innovation leader in Europe. 

The Swiss life science ecosystem is made up of innovative start-ups and multinational giants such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer, Abbott, Merck, Biogen, CSL Behring, Baxter, Johnson & Johnson, Hamilton, Medtronic among others. These companies benefit from Switzerland’s experienced cluster along the entire value chain to develop, produce and market new products and services - all in one place!

Switzerland has a dense ecosystem in three main hubs: Zurich, Basel and the Greater Geneva Bern area. These offer all the vital ingredients for pharma companies.- Nicolas Tièche, Head of Bulle Site at UCB

Switzerland is also home to world leading research institutes and hospitals. The industry employs around 46,000 people, and a total of 250,000 direct and indirect jobs depend on the success of the pharmaceutical sector.

Strategic HQ Location

With its strong life sciences clusters and a business-friendly environment, Switzerland has become a favored headquarter location for life science companies expanding into Europe. 20 percent of European life science companies have their headquarters in Switzerland, representing over 90 companies with active clinical trials. These include regional headquarters from innovative biopharma companies such as Bluebird Bio, Roivant Sciences, BeiGene, Hengrui, Alnylam, Incyte, Biogen, Moderna, Luye Pharma, Align Technology, and Amgen, among others. 

Switzerland’s thriving ecosystem provides partnering and licensing opportunities, and the country’s geographical position helps access the European market efficiently. Free trade agreements with the EU/EFTA and 43 other countries, including China, Canada, and Japan, provide access to the most important export markets. 

Modern infrastructure, high quality of life, and access to highly trained employees contribute to the extremely positive conditions for a strong and future- oriented    biotechnology industry in Switzerland. And importantly, we can be confident that these conditions will be maintained over the longer term. - Christiane von der Eltz, General Manager and Managing Director at Merck Switzerland AG

Market Access to Europe

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, but offers direct access to Europe, its main trade partner. Various agreements to liberalize the market create almost equal access to the European single market. These agreements make it easy for companies from Switzerland to tap into a market of almost 500 million consumers. 

Switzerland shares a border with three of the four largest European markets: Germany, France and Italy. Their languages are also national languages of Switzerland, which many inhabitants speak fluently in addition to English. Because it provides great diversity within a very small area, Switzerland is also perfectly suited as a test and sales market. 

For the life sciences industry, Switzerland is a global market leader that hits far above its weight. There is an ecosystem here that really drives innovation, higher    productivity, and better use of resources. It extends across pharma, biotech, med-tech, health start-ups and world-renowned academic centers.  - Patricia Gee, Director in Life Sciences at Deloitte

The Swiss Life Sciences ecosystem on a regional level

  • Stretching from the Canton of Valais to Geneva and as far north as Neuchâtel and Bern, Switzerland’s Health Valley is a dense network of more than 1,000 companies and 35,000 talents collaborating with 500 research labs to further life sciences.
  • Campus Biotech in Geneva is a center of excellence for research in biotechnology. Biopôle Lausanne is an innovation-oriented life sciences campus comprising an incubator, StartLab and a digital health program. In Valais, BioArk supports SMEs and startups in transforming their projects into industrial and commercial reality and in developing their business. The Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine (sitem-insel) in Bern works on unlocking “bench to bedside” innovation. 
  • With its unique ecosystem of innovative startups, multinational pharmaceutical giants such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer or Abbott and world leading research institutes and hospitals, the Basel Area is continuously growing its network of digital health innovators. The DayOne initiative aims to foster collaboration across disciplines and industries in precision medicine and digital health. Basel is the host city of Intelligent Health AI and the BioDataWorld Congress, two of the world leading conferences for health data science
  • While the Greater Zurich Area is home to large pharmaceutical companies like Biogen, Johnson & Johnson, or Amgen, its ecosystem offers a fertile environment especially for early-stage life sciences companies. In the Bio-Technopark, for instance, over 50 companies and many institutions have settled on an area of 55,000m². These include startups such as Cutiss, Biognosys and Neurimmune, Roche with its Innovation Center, or DiNAQOR with its gene therapy platform. Companies also benefit from the proximity to ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, who support research activities such as NEXUS, Wyss Zurich, Loop Zurich, or the Zurich-Basel Personalized Health Alliance. 
  • Switzerland Innovation Park Innovaare in the canton Aargau is a place where extraordinary talent from scientific research and industry come together. On an integrated campus with Switzerland’s largest scientific research institution Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), member companies have unique and direct access to PSI’s large-scale research facilities and thousands of researchers and scientists. 
  • Companies located in Lucerne can attract a skilled and committed workforce from a large area of Switzerland, due to Lucerne’s central location. The access to graduates from top universities is another reason why companies like MSD have chosen to settle and expand in the Lucerne area. 


Check out our factsheets for background information.
Or get in touch with us – even if are just starting to think about expanding your business internationally. We are happy to help.


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