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.

Celebrating 20 years at Swisslinx: An interview with Director Colin Tivendale

Swisslinx is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and to celebrate, we’re speaking to some of the people who’ve helped make Swisslinx become the business it is today. Colin Tivendale started his career working in journalism and event promotion before entering the recruitment industry in 2002, where he’s remained ever since. Working within the recruitment markets of Digital & Technology and Change & Consulting, he’s worked his way up to Director level at Swisslinx and is looking forward to seeing the company continue to grow into the future. Here’s his story:“I worked in multi-lingual call centres before moving to recruitment”After moving on from his work in call centres, Colin first gained an insight intro recruitment when he worked at S3 in London on one of their Swiss desks. As an English, French and German speaker, Colin was able to further develop his multi-lingual skills during these early days of his career, before deciding to venture into more of a business development role.“I wanted to be based in Zurich at a company that placed a high value on the customer experience”Colin had his sights set on a boutique company where he could make a meaningful impact and commit to a long-term career. Swisslinx fit the bill – he joined in 2002 to specialise in technology, finance and business support, and has since added executive search, program resourcing and consulting to his skillset. His journey has seen him touch on most sales topics, including business development, research and account management across technology, corporate functions, finance and executive search, spanning the regions of Zurich, Geneva, Dubai/Abu Dhabi and London.“I manage a team of four in a space that is ripe for disruption”Colin’s team’s focus is primarily developing the business lines of the future for Swisslinx, which he believes to be Consulting/Professional Services and Executive Search for CIO/CDO and CTO functions. These spaces are primed and ready for disruption and Colin says better service levels can be delivered to customers by providing more transparency, a shorter timeline from engagement to hire and a more direct and delivery-focused execution style. “There have been so many highlights since I joined the company”Swisslinx has grown enormously during Colin’s tenure. When he joined the offering was mainly banking, and he’s proud of helping hedge this portfolio by introducing two large key accounts, one in reinsurance and one in industrial, garnering CHF 20-30 million per year spends. He’s also worked on the majority of the firm’s largest fee generating searches and placements.“I never thought I’d enjoy management as much as I do”Having seen the company grow from fewer than 10 people in one office to a 50 person company with offices around the globe, Colin says Swisslinx’s development has been significant – but there’s still a long way to go. He’s grateful to have who he believes are some of the most talented people in the local and international markets on his team and says their potential to grow and develop is unlimited.“If I ever start feeling too comfortable in my chair, I ask for a new project”Colin remains stimulated in his work thanks to the autonomy he is afforded at Swisslinx. He says he’s been given the freedom to develop business lines and add new elements to existing areas, which has resulted in the introduction of the Commodities and Natural Resources business and the recent focus on Consulting and Professional Services. The former was instrumental in Swisslinx moving away from being a generalist recruitment agency towards the highly specialised boutique model of today. Meanwhile, the Consulting and Professional Services offering provides customers with a sustainable and credible alternative to the established management and tech consulting firms.“Good recruiters are at their best when they are the broker directly communicating with the client and candidate”While Colin counts himself lucky to have started in recruitment in the early days of LinkedIn and new technology platforms, he maintains that the personal touch of a recruiter cannot be digitalised. As client needs continue to evolve at pace, Recruiters and Swisslinx as a business must be proactive to keep developing. “Here we are given enough freedom to innovate and create, coupled with just the right amount of support to succeed”In addition to having the autonomy and ability to craft, design and implement business plans, Colin loves working alongside people who are passionate about what they do. From the partners who have been with Swisslinx since day one to the management team and new joiners, he believes the most important elements are in place to continue to exceed expectations.  Interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Swisslinx or do business with the company? View our blog to find out more, or click here to meet other members of the team. 

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Celebrating 20 years at Swisslinx: An interview with Director Jennifer Bego

Swisslinx is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and to celebrate, we’re speaking to some of the people who’ve helped make Swisslinx become the business it is today. Jennifer Bego has been with Swisslinx since 2005, when she arrived in Switzerland after spending a year in Australia. While she never anticipated such a long and successful career in recruitment, she’s loved every step of it. Here’s her story: “At university I never really imagined a career path for myself” Like many in this industry, Jenny didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a Recruiter. Rather, the career is one she fell into, and she’s not looked back in 14 years. During her schooling and uni days Jenny wasn’t sure what career pathway might interest her, although she had the fundamental skills that make up a good Recruiter: communication, confidence and social intelligence. After graduating she was eager to start earning, and when searching for jobs within her skill set and qualifications she kept coming across recruitment vacancies. With no reason not to, Jenny interviewed for her first role – and the rest is history.  “Swisslinx is family – literally” Many people say that their work is like a family, but Jenny really means it. Her then-UK-based father was recruited by Swisslinx whilst Jenny was travelling in Australia, and after her trip ended she returned to her new home of Zurich to join them. Her father suggested she consider a role at Swisslinx, and since then the company has had a hand to play in bringing her brother, his best friend and Jenny’s school friend to Zurich. She says the ripple effect of that first call from Swisslinx to her father has been amazing, changing the course of not only her life, but those of many people she knows. “My reasons for joining weren’t strategic – I really just liked the Partners” When Jenny first joined Swisslinx, she had no idea she’d had such an illustrious career with the business. With little thought to her future or any strategic reason for joining a company, Jenny says she simply liked the people she met at Swisslinx and wanted to work somewhere that seemed friendly and focused. Starting out as a researcher on the finance desk, Jenny soon saw herself drawn to the speed and style of the IT side of the business, where she’s been ever since.  “In my 15 years I’ve experienced different roles all over the business” Jenny’s time at Swisslinx has spanned research, consultant and management roles, before she moved into her current Director position in January 2018. She says it’s important for her to remain hands-on and play an active role in managing accounts, particularly as Swisslinx retains the number one position in numerous Preferred Supplier Lists (PSL). Managing a team of Consultants, Jenny has contributed significantly to the strategy and growth of Swisslinx with the creation of new service offerings such as RPO. “15 years in any industry brings a lot of change” Jenny says one of the most dramatic changes she’s seen during her time at Swisslinx has been the introduction of automated and system-driven recruitment delivery models. Relationship building will always be a crucial part of recruitment, but the addition of new technologies has allowed many processes to become more efficient and effective. This has meant well-written CVs have become more important than ever in the recruitment process, as Recruiters can no longer discuss certain attributes of a candidate directly with line managers. In addition, Jenny has seen a growth in interest for flexible talent solutions such as RPO has stemmed from an increase in scale-ups and start-ups, as well as the candidate-driven market which requires more manpower to reach the top talent. Many roles end up being filled by the passive candidate market who can only be reached by active sourcing, which is in itself a hugely time-intensive task. This is an activity that is not a part of traditional HR responsibilities and is therefore typically outsourced to active sourcing specialists, such as Swisslinx, to run in tailor-made solutions such as project or long-term based RPO.  “The people are what I love most about Swisslinx” Swisslinx has become a family to Jenny over the years, and she says the way employees are treated is unique. “They truly care and make you feel valued as a person” says Jenny. “The trust and freedom they provide creates a natural and deeply rooted sense of loyalty which I am sure is shared by many here.” Jenny says Olivier and Caroline extend so much trust in their team members and are flexible, understanding and supportive.  In addition, Jenny says she’s stayed with the company due to its ethics and ways of working. Swisslinx has a strong moral compass, says Jenny, and will not “make a deal at any cost”.  “It’s been great to see the evolution of the company and the success we’ve had over the past 15 years” Jenny says Swisslinx has become so well regarded in its market space and its expansion into new areas is testament to its ongoing growth and success. She’s particularly proud of the success the RPO model has already had and says the level of transparency Swisslinx works with fosters a high level of trust with both clients and relationships.  “We’re seeing demand for RPOs and dedicated talent acquisition teams, and I’m excited about what’s coming in terms of the service lines we’re growing and offering,” she says. Start-ups and scale-ups are increasingly looking to Swisslinx to help fill their talent pipelines and build a database of candidates, which Jenny is keen to see develop into the future.  “As long as I’m working in recruitment, I’m working at Swisslinx” Loyal to Swisslinx and excited for the future, Jenny is looking forward to helping consultants on her team develop and grow with the company – just as she has.  Interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Swisslinx or do business with the company? View our blog to find out more, or click here to meet other members of the team. 

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