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Swiss biotech industry is booming

More than 13,000 people are employed in Swiss-based biotech companies Keystone

After several years of stagnation and difficulty in attracting capital, the biotech industry worldwide is flourishing again.

At the end of last year, Switzerland was home to 227 biotech companies – up from 216 in 2002.

“I think the industry is looking very optimistic for the future. The year 2003 was probably the second best financing year on a global basis,” Jürg Zürcher, biotech expert at Ernst & Young Switzerland, told swissinfo.

Last year over SFr19 billion ($15 billion) was invested worldwide in the biotech industry, a figure that was only bettered in the year 2000.

The latest figures were released at Biosquare 2004 – a convention for biotech representatives and pharmaceutical companies in Basel.

Worldwide boom

For the Swiss biotech industry the worldwide boom has proved very positive.

According to Ernst & Young more than SFr130 million of venture capital was invested in Switzerland last year.

Since 1998 the country has kept its rank as number six in Europe and number nine worldwide. Around 13,000 people are employed in companies headquartered here.

“Switzerland offers the best conditions for biotech companies,” said David Syz, head of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

“We have excellent research, highly qualified staff and a strong network between universities, science parks and industry. We also have favourable tax conditions.”

Not perfect

According to Ernst & Young the biotech industry has been very sustainable in Switzerland over the past decade.

“One third of the companies have been founded prior to 1990 and it is a steady development. New companies are set up every year. It’s a growing activity,” said Zürcher.

Despite the positive trends, there is still some criticism about the way things are done in Switzerland.

“We obviously still have a big job to do in technology transfer. Switzerland is a great country with great qualities but sometimes we are not fast enough,” said Domenico Alexakis, executive director of the Swiss Biotech Association.

“We have to look across the borders and see how quickly we can produce the technology at a speed that guarantees quality.”


The Swiss biotech industry consisted of 227 companies by the end of 2003.
Regarding the number of biotech companies, Switzerland ranks sixth in Europe and ninth in the world.
Some 13,000 people are employed in the Swiss biotech sector.
Of the SFr19 billion invested in biotech last year, Switzerland attracted about SFr130 million.

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