Pharmaceutical industry booming in the region

When the pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland is mentioned, it is only natural that one thinks initially of Basel, after all, it is in this area that the biggest players in this market operate. However, a recent report indicates that the fastest-growing pharmaceutical area is that between Zurich, Zug and Lucerne.

The publishers of this report, the BAK Economics economic research institute of Basel, have discovered that, while the pharmaceutical industry grew as a whole in the country by 7.2% in the decade between 2006 and 2016, in the Zurich-Zug-Lucerne area it grew by 12.6%. This compares with 7.3% when looking at Basel alone.

As one of the co-authors of the report, Stephen Fry, mentioned, one needs to put these figures into perspective, with this central Swiss location generating only 4% of the national pharmaceutical business in 2016, albeit to the tune of CHF 1.2 billion. What is interesting on the jobs front is that, out of a total of 455,000 employees in the industry nationwide, some 2,200, or just under 5%, worked in the Zürich-Zug-Lucerne area. However, in reality this figure could be much higher, bearing in mind that it was those employees involved in actual pharmaceutical production who were included in the report, not those working in related research or in administration.

What is behind this increase in central Switzerland is that fact that many companies working in the areas of medical technology and the life-science industry are also based here. Added to this are factors such as favourable levels of tax and regulation, the general central location, the excellent transport network and the availability of appropriately qualified staff, as the director of economic development in the canton of Lucerne, Robert Küng, mentioned.
Fry also pointed out that statistics showed that, contrary to what is generally thought, actual production is returning to Switzerland, though one must differentiate here between classic chemical production, which is diminishing, and that of the more complex bio-technology, which is increasing. “It is just that, elsewhere, energy supplies are unreliable,” he said, adding how even short power outages could ruin a lot of work. Hence, he concluded that the current state of the pharmaceutical industry here was in a very healthy state, remaining attractive and innovative, mentioning that the short distances involved in Switzerland were another beneficial factor, with Basel, the airport, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and company headquarters in Zug all very close together, when looked at from an American point of view.
Commenting on this report, Prisca Birrer Heimo, an SP parliamentarian representing Lucerne in Bern, who is also chairwoman of the Foundation for Consumer Protection, said that these figures were all most encouraging, especially if they meant more jobs and greater income from tax. However, what concerned her was the high cost of medicines, leading, of course, to higher health costs in general. Furthermore, she concluded that it made her wonder whether all what these pharmaceutical companies produced was medically useful or not, though she did not go on to elaborate.          

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