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 can you stand out in a competitive job market?

The Swiss job market has historically been very stable, with an unemployment rate of less than 3.5% since October 2019. However, Covid-19 has hit the global job market hard, and Switzerland hasn’t escaped entirely unscathed. According to Reuters, there were 55% more people out of work in June 2020 than there were in 2020, with the novel coronavirus leaving restaurants and tourist enterprises vulnerable. The Swiss scheme to compensate people working shorter hours to avoid mass layoffs has helped to prevent more widespread damage, however, and we are now seeing green shoots in the local job market. The number of open positions registered with employment agencies more than doubled from May to June, and we continue to see exciting new opportunities open up to professionals. But how can job seekers stand out and secure these roles? Step one: Optimise your LinkedIn In order to stand out in a crowded marketplace, you must make sure you’re easy to be found. Start by looking at your LinkedIn profile and any other professional networking presence you have. Make sure all your recent and relevant work experience is listed in detail, including job titles, key skills, technologies you’ve worked with and any other keywords that recruiters might use to search for you. Take a LinkedIn skills assessment to demonstrate your abilities and add a Verified Skills badge to your profile – research shows that candidates with verified skills are 30% more likely to be hired. Make sure you’ve got a photo uploaded and a title that reflects what you’re looking for and you’re on your way to getting noticed. Step two: Network and make connections Once you’ve polished your online profiles, it’s time to develop your personal brand and do some digital networking. Connect with industry leaders you admire, follow companies and profiles that relate to your sector and don’t be afraid to share your opinions and ideas. You might not quite feel ready to publish your own thought leadership article on LinkedIn, but it’s easy to ask a question of your network or even share a thought-provoking blog. One of the best ways to network online is by joining LinkedIn groups related to your niche – for instance, Life Sciences in Switzerland and Job & Career in Switzerland. And don’t forget to reach out to recruiters and executive search consultants in your industry! Step three: Overhaul your CV Once you’ve found roles to apply to, you’ll want to tailor your CV accordingly. Your CV should act as a snapshot of your career and highlight all your key skills and achievements. Make sure to include any details that might set you apart from another candidate, whether that’s German language skills, recent digital accreditation or success in influencing senior stakeholders. Think of what you’re really proud of and what value you can add in a company, and highlight these in your CV and cover letter. Try to keep your CV to two pages where possible and triple-check it before sending it away, watching out for typos and inconsistencies. Step four: Apply thoughtfully and carefully If you’re looking for new opportunities, it can be tempting to simply send the same version of your CV out far and wide to as many places as possible. However, recruiters and hiring managers will know if you’ve not put any effort into your application. Where possible, tailor your CV or cover letter to the role you’re applying for, matching skills and requirements to those from the job ad. This approach can be more time consuming than a ‘send to all’ strategy, but by showing specifically how your experience aligns with the vacancy, you’ll have a higher chance of progression in the application. Step five: Bring your best self to the interview Whether it’s a video interview or traditional in-person meeting, getting to this stage is a great sign that the company is interested in you. With that in mind, approach the interview with confidence and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Organisations are increasingly looking for cultural and organisational fit, as well as technical and experiential prowess, so it’s important to be yourself at the interview stage. Try to relax and remember that the interviewer will be looking to sell the position, just like you are trying to demonstrate your value. If it’s a good match, then congratulations! If not, continue the above steps until you find a position that suits you. Find your next role with Swisslinx Even in the most competitive job market, our strong industry relationships and understanding our industries means we can offer candidates access to a variety of roles across our recruitment markets. Find out more about being a Swisslinx candidate or view our latest jobs to take your next career step.

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