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.

How has Covid-19 impacted Dubai?

Around the world, countries have been impacted by and responded to Covid-19 in different ways. While Switzerland chose to rely heavily on testing and offered support to businesses, the United Arab Emirates implemented a travel ban, cut interest rates and rolled out a stimulus package. As a travel hub with many expat and temporary workers, Dubai has been presented with unique challenges during the pandemic. Now as individuals and businesses start to recover and now look to the future, what can we expect for the city, and how might the economy recover? Travel plans have changed Dubai came to a standstill in April as the UAE government imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world. Now, the emirate is opening the economy back up, and a significant part of this is travel. As one of the world’s most significant travel hubs, Dubai was heavily impacted by lockdown measures. It's a city reliant on tourism, hospitality and aviation, so the grounding of planes and imposition of strict travel restrictions have had a major effect on the economy. March’s complete halt of passenger flights has contributed to passenger travel through Dubai dropping by a fifth in the first quarter of 2020, though special repatriation flights still operated to ensure travellers and contract workers could return home. The transport and storage sector, which includes aviation, land, air and water transport, made up 18.5% of Dubai’s GDP in 2017 and was its most active economic driver in the first half of 2019, so such a significant halt could be detrimental to the wider economy. However, there is now good news for the aviation and hospitality sectors with the resumption of travel from to and from Dubai by July 7. 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However, with job losses and tanking economies an issue worldwide, those in stable industries may choose to stay on in Dubai rather than facing an uncertain future back home. Some nations in the GCC are actively looking to reduce expatriate worker numbers, with Kuwait and Oman looking to fill a higher percentage of key positions with national candidates. As international flights resume and restrictions ease, we anticipate there will be more employment opportunities within the UAE, particularly within the healthcare, distribution and logistics and technology industries. E-commerce is thriving throughout the pandemic, so specialist skillsets in this area will be highly sought after.  Oil and gas take a hit We know that the commodities market has taken a considerable hit in 2020, not just with Covid-19 but with the oil price wars as well. 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As 22% of UAE employers say working from home has increased their business’ productivity, many organisations may introduce new remote and flexible working policies to allow employees to work from home on a permanent or part time basis. Unnecessary business travel will likely be reduced or eliminated entirely, with a focus on working – and hiring – locally. That’s not to say there won’t be opportunities for global workers to take up lucrative contracts in the UAE, however. For the right candidate, opportunities will remain. Established in 2007, Swisslinx’s Dubai office is focused on banking and finance, oil and gas, and technology. We have a multilingual team of sector experts who are committed to matching the right candidates with the right roles, providing ongoing support before, during and after the recruitment process. View our latest UAE jobs or contact us to talk about how we can help you.

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How have startups pivoted to respond to Covid-19?

The Covid-19 outbreak has led to a raft of changes across industries, from home working and virtual business meetings through to social distancing and reorganisation. Beyond the day-to-day of how we’re working, we’ve also seen dramatic changes within some industries as to what we’re working on. One of the most interesting impacts of Covid-19 has been the response of businesses who are trying to not only survive, but also help in the face of a massive global pandemic. Restaurants have moved to online delivery models, fashion labels are manufacturing face masks and life science organisations worldwide are devoting their efforts entirely to finding a vaccine. This is easier for some than others – changing business models and production plans suit organisations that are agile and free from the restrictions that many established large-scale businesses have in place. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at how startups have pivoted in response to Covid-19. What does ‘pivot’ mean? Anyone who’s worked in technology – and particularly the startup world – will be familiar with the pivot. It’s the term given to a change in approach to test a new business model or product, usually after receiving feedback that the original approach is not effective. It’s common in the startup community where entrepreneurs typically follow a lean methodology where everything is questioned – even the purpose of the organisation. Famous organisations that have pivoted include Nintendo, whose previous products have included instant rice and vacuum cleaners, and Twitter, which was once a service called Odeo that allowed people to find and listen to podcasts. Which startups have pivoted as a response to Covid-19? The 2010s saw a huge amount of hype generated over 3D printing, yet the technology has so far seemed somewhat underutilised. Now, however, Covid-19 is presenting new demand for additive manufacturing, thanks largely to the stranglehold China has had on manufacturing personal protective equipment and other products that have been in short supply during the pandemic. When Chinese manufacturing came to a halt during lockdown, startups and other businesses stepped up to use 3D printing to fill the gap, with designs for face shields and medical equipment shared on open source platforms to allow anyone to create these much-needed products. The Middle East and North African market have seen 3D printing startups such as Eon Dental pivot to contribute to the Covid-19 battle, reconfiguring machines and temporarily changing their entire business models. Meanwhile, UAE commodities startup Immensa produces 10,000-12,000 face shields a day to export to Europe, the US and Middle East. Closer to home, Swiss-based fertility tracking organisation Ava Women is researching whether its fertility tracking device can be used to detect early signs of Covid-19. Another life sciences startup, Warsaw Genomics, has moved away from its genetic testing to now offer Covid-19 tests for distribution within Poland’s hospitals, while delivery network Gophr is now delivering pharma, bio-sample and test kids for health services companies. The fintech market is not exempt from virus-driven pivots. Examples include US neobank Moven selling its direct consumer offering to focus entirely on developing financial technology for other banks, and British credit rating startup Credit Kudos launching a tool that allows freelancers to verify their earnings to benefit from the British government’s financial support.  What does this mean for me? These pivots demonstrated the rapidly changing business landscape we are finding ourselves in, and the need for businesses and workers alike to take a flexible, agile approach to the marketplace. While experience in healthcare and life sciences is naturally in demand in the current climate, so too are digital and technology skills to help startups and other businesses pivot and digitalise their offering. If you’re in the market for a new role, we’d love to help. We have deep experience in our specialist markets and are paying close attention to the current market conditions. Contact us to start a conversation about your next steps.

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