Region/Countries: Europe, Switzerland Industry: Biosciences / Medical Devices Date: January 2020

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies can supply to, and collaborate with, companies in one of the world's most active and diverse bioscience clusters.

For centuries, Switzerland has adhered to a policy of neutrality in global affairs, which has given it the access and political stability to become one of the world’s wealthiest countries. With a GDP per capita of $78,816 in 2018, it ranks second in Europe (compared to Wisconsin’s per capita GDP of $51,883). In the global field, Switzerland offers what many consider to be the most attractive overall conditions for highly skilled foreign workers and multinational companies. It ranks second in productivity worldwide, ranks third in political stability and tops the list for overall enterprise resilience to disruptive events, according to the OECD. In the ease of doing business rankings, Switzerland has started to improve in recent years, and now places 36th of 190 economies worldwide. Due to a global economic slowdown, economic growth slowed to 0.7% in 2019, but is expected to improve in 2020-21. The Swiss economy benefits from a highly skilled and developed service sector led by financial services and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-tech, knowledge-based production.

With a strong and future-oriented biotech industry, Switzerland ranks first in scientific output, patenting activity and venture capital availability for this industry, according to Nature Biotechnology. Local companies hold leading positions throughout many industry subsectors, attracting capital, partnerships and talent from all regions of the world. The basis for this success is a close-knit network of research and development driven by renowned universities, highly specialized small and midsize enterprises, and strong multinational corporations. This framework enabled Switzerland to stand out as the clear innovation leader throughout the whole world for the eighth consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index, despite having only 0.1% of the world’s population. Basel, known as one of the leading biotech and life sciences clusters worldwide, houses many large multinational corporations—such as Nestle, Novartis and Sygenta—which  use the region as a hub for their global networks of R&D collaborations and manufacturing. Roche and Novartis, two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, are also headquartered in Basel. In all, 249 bioscience companies and 63 suppliers are located in Switzerland—specializing mostly in therapeutics, bioinformatics and electronics, cosmetics, diagnostics and analytical services—and employing 14,300 people. As with Actelion, Cellesta Biotech and NBE-Therapeutics, many of the leading biopharmaceutical companies develop their drugs and treatments to meet unmet demands from Basel. This existing network opens up broad business opportunities for Wisconsin to trade products and components, as these companies are used to a very global supply chain.

In 2018, Switzerland imported $277 billion worth of goods from around the globe, with 7.6% coming from the U.S. With an import volume of $55 million from Wisconsin in 2018, the Swiss are an important trading partner for the state. As a country that focuses heavily on R&D and drug development in the bioscience sector, there is strong potential for Wisconsin businesses to trade biopharmaceutical components and laboratory equipment to the stable and continuously growing market of Switzerland and build long-lasting partnerships. Although trade between Wisconsin and Switzerland slowed down between 2016 and 2017, it increased again in 2018, and bioscience-related trade saw continued growth. Wisconsin exported more than $8 million worth of measuring, medical and control instruments and over $1.7 million worth of medical equipment and supplies to Switzerland in 2018. In the case of nucleic acids and salts, for example, exports grew nearly tenfold, from only $72,000 in 2017 to $610,000 in 2018. The same is true of oxygen-function amino compounds (which grew from $4,000 in 2017 to $300,000 in 2018), reflecting both ever-growing Swiss demand and the rising importance of Wisconsin as an internationally recognized biotech hub.

As the Wisconsin bioscience industry gains attention in the international market, relationships with the world’s leading biotech hubs become increasingly important. With one of the most active and diverse clusters in the world, Switzerland and especially Basel offer broad opportunities for Wisconsin exports. Europe’s leading conferences in life sciences, BASEL LIFE in September 2020 and ILMAC in October 2020, are good opportunities to meet potential Swiss business partners all in one place.