For medical device manufacturers who rely on highly technical micro manufacturing or precision advanced manufacturing to produce their products, few countries offer the advantages and opportunities that Switzerland does. It is why industry giants such as Medtronic have chosen Switzerland for their EMEA headquarters.
Switzerland’s proportion of GDP from the manufacturing sector is one of the highest in the world and thanks to the traditional watch, MEMS, and medtech industries, highly industrialized and digitized precision clusters have emerged that lend themselves to the precision manufacturing of medical and orthotic devices.
The main drivers of medical device manufacturers choosing Switzerland are a technically trained workforce due to the country’s dual education system, which ensures employees who can operate complex machinery; a pragmatic, industry-driven regulatory environment; and an attractive tax system for foreign companies.
Pioneering Regulations, Efficiency, and Innovation
Reno, Nevada-based Hamilton is a leader in measuring solutions and has hundreds of OEM partners who are instrument and device manufacturers around the world. CEO Andreas Wieland touts that the Swiss vocational training and pragmatic collaboration with research institutes and universities mean faster product validation and go-to-market.
Cost is often cited as a factor in moving manufacturing or R&D to Switzerland versus countries with lower costs, but many U.S. executives operating in Switzerland say the benefits far outweigh any higher costs. Their highly skilled workforce can operate high-tech machinery, resulting in fewer errors, which results in reduced cost.
Also, a factor is a pragmatic regulatory environment. “When I need something, I talk directly to the government,” said Andres Wieland, CEO of Hamilton. “First, this is fast, and second, very unbureaucratic.”
When I need something, I talk directly to the government.
Wieland also noted the proximity to public authorities is a benefit—geographically, these precision clusters are, by and large, accessible—but the simplicity of working with them, and a very attractive tax system, all play into Hamilton’s choosing Bonaduz, Switzerland as their European headquarters.
Testing, Scaling, and Collaboration
Switzerland is the perfect environment for testing and scaling your business. Whether you are in the experimentation phase of a new device or concept, or the R&D process, a company can go from the proof-of-concept phase to commercial exploitation in a reduced time frame due to a streamlined bureaucracy and a relative disdain for red tape commonly encountered in other countries.
Collaborations with Swiss corporations, startups, universities, and research institutes can help companies develop and adapt their businesses beyond U.S. borders to benefit the players on both sides of the pond.
Scaling is easier as well—the permitting and planning process to build new facilities is simplified and fast—as companies such as Hamilton and Rinco Ultrasonics can attest to.
Ease of Expansion
The ability of a device manufacturer to scale and meet increased sales demand cannot be underestimated. Danbury, Connecticut-based Rinco Ultrasonics specializes in ultrasonic welding and cutting technology. The company grew over the last 40 years from a small family business to a global player and now has a presence in more than 40 countries.
Rinco Ultrasonics manufactures ultrasonic devices using production processes at the highest level, with all products manufactured 100 percent in Switzerland. Their tools are custom developed, calculated, and simulated using FEM analysis and are suitable for the medical industries and cleanrooms.
They recently completed a 1,000-square-meter extension at their Swiss manufacturing facility in Romanshorn in Eastern Switzerland. They relocated their mechanical production and converter production departments to the new facilities as well as a state-of-the-art extension of their laboratory. The new facility is now called The Ultrasonic Competence Center.
Dental Device Disrupters
San Jose, California-based Align Technology, who disrupted the orthodontics industry with their Invisalign product, moved their European regional headquarters from Amsterdam to Rotkreuz, Switzerland in January 2020.
The R&D center is part of a wider, global research and development team. The hub aims to build on the existing relations with Swiss-based institutions, dental associations, and clinics across Switzerland, as well as expand collaboration with the leading research and technology institutions, such as the University of Zurich or ETH Zurich.
Consulting Services and the Regulatory Environment
Each of the 26 cantons of Switzerland is home to globally recognized legal, accounting, and business service companies available for U.S. companies who want to establish manufacturing or sales headquarters in Switzerland.
Each canton offers governmental support from the concept stage to establishing a physical presence in Switzerland through a network of U.S.-based trade offices who work with counterparts in Switzerland, all at no charge to the business entity seeking to establish themselves in Switzerland.
For companies moving their advanced manufacturing to Switzerland, the legal ecosystem offers pioneering technology regulations and favorable IP laws for both startups and innovative established companies.
European Markets Access
Since Switzerland is not part of the EU, it is also free from many of its cumbersome regulations. Switzerland has 31 bilateral free-trade agreements with all European countries, giving access to the entire European market and the UK, as well as China, Indonesia, and Japan. This position greatly reduces the risk involved with international expansion and trade and ensures access to international markets.
The journey to Switzerland begins in the U.S. where regional trade commissioners working from several U.S. consulates can provide detailed information and resources. Working with counterparts on the ground in Switzerland, they create a step-by-step roadmap for moving or establishing advanced medical manufacturing to one of Switzerland’s business-friendly cantons.
For medical device manufacturers looking to expand their advanced, precision, or microelectronic manufacturing, Switzerland offers unparalleled opportunities and an expansive support ecosystem to assist U.S. companies each step along the way.