An overview of Switzerland’s pharmaceuticals industry

Posting date: 12 August 2019
The pharmaceutical industry employs 135,000 people in Switzerland and contributes to 30% of its exports — more than the Swiss chocolate, cheese and watches export industries combined, making it a significant economic industry for the nation. It’s no surprise with Switzerland’s forward-thinking and innovative endeavours that two of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Novartis and Roche, are companies born out of Switzerland.

Other famous corporations in pharmaceuticals also employ heavily in Switzerland, including Celgene which ranks eighth in terms of its number of employees in Switzerland. Celgene has recently been acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $74 billion, making it one of the top 10 most expensive mergers and acquisitions in history.

So why have these pharmaceutical giants chosen Switzerland as an attractive location to set base and how is it significant to their success? Let’s consider the pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland and why it’s such a key player in the global market.

Focus on speciality chemicals

Despite Switzerland’s lack of natural resources, it still hosts a successful export industry due to its focus on low volume speciality chemicals which constitutes 90% of its product portfolio. Switzerland is known for providing bespoke pharmaceutical solutions through its access to and funding for intensive research and development of these fine chemicals. The global demand for these speciality chemicals is always increasing, which makes Switzerland’s assets valuable.

Switzerland has seen many success stories and inventions in the pharmaceutical industries. Roche is credited with inventing Invirase, the world’s first HIV proteinase inhibitor drug in 1995 and later, co-created Funzeon, which stops the HIV virus from entering human cells. In addition, Novartis has been widely recognised for their work on cancer treatment through their aromatase blocker letrozole (Femara) which is used in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer.

The Swiss pharmaceutical industry now offers more than 30,000 products and is well-positioned to make significant contributions to healthcare, both in Switzerland and worldwide.

Intense research and development

From as early as 1896, the region of Basel became the centre of 19th-century pharmaceutical industries since Switzerland had no patent laws. This was in direct contrast with the surrounding European countries and led to a migration of researchers to Switzerland who wished to work without restrictions. Currently, there are 900 pharmaceutical and MedTech companies which employ 50,000 workers in the region of Basel. Though patent laws have changed since the 1890s, Switzerland still hosts a supportive regulatory environment through its fair patent and pricing regulations.

In addition, Switzerland’s current proximity to research institutions and sophisticated healthcare system provides an ideal environment for the intensive research of highly specialised products and the ability to test drugs to be sent to market.

There is also high access to recruit highly qualified scientists from these globally ranking universities and their research teams. Novartis hired 23,000 science professionals including scientists and doctors to work on over 200 projects in clinical development worldwide, just as Roche employed 22,000 people to work in research and development. Switzerland hosts outstanding scientific and technological workforce with in-demand skills.

In addition, there is a lot of financial support from pharmaceutical companies who have invested almost 7 billion Swiss francs into research and development in Switzerland.

Supportive framework conditions

Switzerland has free trade agreements with the EU and 40 other countries, including innovative key giants such as China and Japan which provide access to essential export markets. After Germany and China, Switzerland has the third most populated network of bilateral investment protection agreements.

Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry is supported by its global reputation for high-quality production standards, for being a strategic test marketer and being able to introduce new medical products at an early stage. This recognition of quality control saves Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry between 130-300 million Swiss francs yearly when trading with the EU, the EFTA States and Canada.

In addition, a single central authority, the Federal Coordination Centre for Biotechnology governs all biotech and gene tech licensing applications which leads to a minimalistic and streamlined bureaucracy procedure.

Switzerland continues to rank number one on the Global Innovation Index due to its access to expert workforces, supportive governmental laws and its relation to the global trading market. Switzerland remains an attractive place to live and work, especially in such an important industry to Switzerland’s nationality and GDP as the pharmaceutical industry.

Work in Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry

Now that you know more about the exciting contributions Switzerland has made in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, consider landing your next role in this booming industry and innovative country with Swisslinx. We also recruit talented pharmaceutical candidates to work in pharmaceutical hotspots worldwide. Contact us for more information or apply for your next role with Swisslinx today.

Why recruitment can never be fully automated

Research shows that approximately 1.2 million jobs in Switzerland could be replaced by computer systems, algorithms and robots. However, the roles typically identified as being ‘at risk’ include bar staff, security guards and drivers – not recruitment professionals. On top of that, there are predictions that robotics and automation can exist alongside human professionals, enhancing their work rather than replacing them entirely.   Though AI has permeated every industry and there’s much reservation surrounding the technology, there are many benefits of automation - particularly for recruitment teams. That being said, recruitment remains a fundamentally relationship-led process that machines will never be able to replicate. Here’s why recruitment can never be fully automated and how AI can instead enable companies to redefine their talent acquisition strategies.   Benefits of new technologies While the human touch of recruitment can never be replicated, there are many ways that automation can help. One instance is AI-powered HR technology tools, which can reduce time to hire and improve the quality of hire simultaneously. AI tools and systems help recruitment professionals to sort through large volumes of applications and identify high-quality candidates – two major challenges that many consultants have faced in the wake of coronavirus. Prior to the outbreak of the virus, many companies were already using such technologies and the pandemic has triggered a widespread adoption of the technology, increasing investment in video interviewing software and virtual assistants.   In McKinsey’s The future of work: Switzerland’s digital opportunity report, results revealed that machine learning could increase the potential for automation of retail recruitment to 60% and to an even higher 66% for finance and insurance. So, how will it do this?   How automation and machine learning can help with the recruitment process People Analytics Recruitment has always been data-rich, but candidate information has traditionally been used to distinguish applicants from one another. The introduction of people analytics has enhanced this, repurposing data to predict what a successful candidate look likes. People analytics – similar to data analytics - tracks high-quality candidates and uses this information to create a personality matrix that predicts future successful hires. But while research from Deloitte found that 71% of businesses agree people analytics is high-priority, how much trust can you really place in a data algorithm?   Writing inclusive job descriptions Various AI tools can help with creating job descriptions using inclusive language such as gender-neutral keywords. As research shows that diversity drives financial progress, there’s more than one incentive for companies to strive for a diverse workforce. This application of AI technology demonstrates how automation will continue to benefit the hiring process and wider business goals by lowering the chance of using biased language.   Recruitment during Covid-19 AI-powered systems have proved their worth during the pandemic, preventing recruitment from coming to an altogether standstill and earning a permanent spot in the recruiter’s tech stack. As a result, the pandemic has accelerated the automation of recruitment, but it’s also exposed the crucial role of the recruiter.   The human element The human element of recruitment is about building relationships. Automation tools take admin tasks off the hands of the recruiter - particularly during the earlier stages of the recruitment process. Hiring teams can then reallocate this time to engage with the candidates who are further along in the process and perhaps more qualified for the role. Therefore, experienced consultants are essential when identifying high-quality candidates and during the executive search process – offering a human touch that automation cannot imitate.   Relationship-driven recruitment creates a superior candidate experience which is a crucial talent attraction strategy in a climate with a ‘war for talent’. Specialist recruiters are trusted to create, develop, enhance and maintain relevant talent pipelines so that companies have access to the best candidates from the talent pool. Whether the talent attraction goal is to ensure cultural fit, tackle D&I targets or source fresh talent from new markets, the human element remains the key piece to the puzzle.   AI and machine learning are enhancing the role of the recruiter Though 24% of Swiss employees fear that robots will replace them in their job, this view fails to consider how AI and machine learning can enhance their job role. Hiring professionals can harness technology to see better results in both their time-to-hire and in identifying high-quality candidates. Before the start of the decade, the job market had confidently established itself as candidate-driven, but now most recruiters and employers are faced with the challenge of sorting through high volumes of applications. This is where technology can help to streamline recruitment, whilst allowing consultants to focus on the core relationship-building and communication elements of the process.     Working in harmony with automation A recent report by Deloitte projected that 270,000 new jobs will be introduced in Switzerland by 2025 - the majority created by automation. The key takeaway is that AI technology doesn’t replace skilled professionals - rather, skilled hiring teams are needed to interpret the data that AI generates and add the personal touch. Though it’s still unclear to what extent recruitment will become automated, the role of the recruiter will remain an important one and will never be fully replaced by robots.   Stay ahead of the curve with Swisslinx At Swisslinx, our international team of consultants make sure to keep stay ahead of the curve, despite operating in an ever-changing recruitment landscape. Our deep understanding of our core recruitment markets and considerate approach to communication means we provide a service that is unrivalled by any technology. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our approach to suit your businesses needs.

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How do you know you’re working with the right recruitment partner?

Anyone who’s ever worked a recruitment agency will know that no two companies are the same. This is due to many factors: agency size, local and international knowledge, access to roles and candidates and use of technology are just a few. One of the biggest differentiators amongst recruitment agencies is the emphasis they place on recruitment standards. The recruitment industry is large, with relatively few bars to entry. As of 2018, there were around 800 recruitment agencies in Switzerland, employing approximately 5,000 consultants to place 340,000 temporary workers each year. It’s an important industry that makes a valuable contribution to the Swiss employment market and therefore economy, but how do candidates and clients know that the recruitment partner they choose to work with is upholding high standards and providing the best possible recruitment experience? What do high standards in recruitment look like? What makes a good recruitment experience? For a candidate, this comes down to several things, including: <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Relationship building: A good recruitment consultant will treat their candidates like professionals, not commodities. Look for a consultant who takes the time to understand your career goals, both long-term and short-term, and listens to what you’re looking for in your next role. A relationship between recruitment consultant and candidate can span years or even decades and can provide crucial guidance and support outside of simply finding new roles. <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Market insights: A recruitment professional should be interested – in the candidate’s wants and needs, in the market, and it the roles they recruit for. Look for a consultant who is passionate about what they do and the sectors they work in, as they’ll likely go the extra mile to find the right move for you. They should also understand trends and developments in the market to help guide you through the recruitment process. How do you know you’re working with the right recruitment partner? Many clients want to build-long term partnerships with recruitment agencies they trust and can rely on. So what should these clients look out for? <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Industry expertise: While generalist recruitment agencies have their place, many organisations benefit from working with an agency that has specific experience in the sectors they operate in, whether that’s financial services, healthcare or technology. Look for consultants who know their markets inside and out, can advise on current trends and know who the best candidates in your sector are. <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->An extensive talent pool: A good recruitment agency can be judged by the depth and breadth of its talent pool. They should be able to access not only active candidates readily looking for opportunities, but also those high-level passive candidates who you would not otherwise be able to engage with. A good recruitment company will have existing relationships with professionals who might just be the perfect ft for your role. <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Honesty and integrity: Recruitment agencies are increasingly being seen as strategic partners for organisations, rather than just supply lines. To be able to build this partnership, an agency must work with honesty and integrity, clearly communicating with both candidate and client and ensuring the recruitment experience is a positive one for all parties involved. Swisslinx is leading the way in recruitment standards At Swisslinx, we have in-depth industry experience in many sectors. Our broad candidate pool accesses local and international professionals and we organise our teams to respond quickly and accurately to client and candidate needs. In addition to these strengths, we pride ourselves on maintaining extremely high standards of service at all times. With one of the highest staff retention rates in recruitment, our consultant’ work ethic, commitment and trustworthiness has been acknowledged by many in the industry. As an example, Account Manager Tim William received the below feedback from one of Swisslinx’ newest clients:   I don't like recruiters in general, but when I do, it's definitely people like Tim. He doesn't cast his net over hundreds of candidates with the same automatically-generated content, but rather hunts for people who - in his opinion - match best with the client's brief. He's highly communicative, keeps candidates in the loop even if he doesn't have any information from the clients and even gets to know where they live and what their current situation is. This is what I call very good relationship-building. And it all sits atop other skills and experience like good client relations, good insights and tips. I can wholeheartedly recommend Tim to any experienced job-seeker that looks for that special human touch and individual approach along with the feel of uniqueness. Well done to Tim, and thanks to all our Swisslinx consultants who go above and beyond to make our clients and candidates get the best possible care every day. If you’re interested in working with us and seeing high recruitment standards in action, contact us or view our client services to find out more.  

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