For more than a decade Switzerland has been placed at the top of the annual Global Innovation Index published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In the life sciences, three pillars, “Knowledge and Technology Output”, “Infrastructure” and “Creative Outputs” are the key factors contributing to the sector’s sustained success. During the COVID pandemic, the Swiss biotech hub, already considered one of leading global centers for biomedical innovation, further enhanced its international reputation by leading numerous initiatives to combat the spread and effects of the virus. In addition, forward-looking indicators, such as the number of world-class patents filed, investment in manufacturing and R&D infrastructure, and the ability to attract financing and talents, indicate that Switzerland remains well positioned for the future.
CEO, Swiss Biotech Association
Last year we expressed some caution that the COVID pandemic might take its toll and that the Swiss inclination not to intervene in the free market, and to avoid providing direct government support for venture-based startups and small/mid-sized R&D companies, could backfire and weaken the innovative power of Switzerland. However, record levels of financing in 2020 and 2021 suggest that global biotech investors continue to recognize the attractiveness of investment opportunities on offer.
Given the small size of their domestic market, Swiss-based biotech and pharma companies have always focused on the global market and invested heavily in international collaborations and R&D networks. It is therefore not surprising that Switzerland played an important role in the global effort to combat the pandemic, and that two Swiss based companies were successful in developing treatments to combat COVID infections (Humabs BioMed/Vir Biotechnology and Molecular Partners/Novartis).
At the same time, Switzerland continued to invest in other areas with global unmet medical needs. In 2020 and 2021, Swiss biotech companies attracted more than CHF 6 billion in new funds - the vast majority of these funds were directed to indications other than COVID, e.g. immune-oncology and neurology or emerging fields such as the microbiome and cell-based regeneration. In parallel to the development of novel treatment options, investors also supported data-driven business models to enable the development of digital therapeutics or personalized medicine. The very successful IPO of Sophia Genetics and the recent MDR certification for the Floodlight Application for multiple sclerosis patients from Roche demonstrated the attractiveness of such data-driven approaches.
Switzerland is continuing to prioritize attracting top talent to sustain the growth and innovative power of its biotech hub, and is also further expanding international collaborations. New bilateral agreements (e.g. with Indonesia) support the extension of its global network, and the country is also seeking to reestablish its full association with Horizon Europe.
Another indicator of innovation is the flourishing startup scene in Switzerland. The new Sparks capital markets segment, recently launched by SIX Swiss Exchange should provide a further boost by offering a cost-effective listing option that facilitates access to global capital markets.
Therefore, on behalf of all the partners of the Swiss Biotech Report 2022, I encourage you to dive into the articles in this year’s report that each consider the main topic of “Sources of Swiss innovation” from a different perspective. They highlight the power of private public partnerships, translational research networks and international collaboration. They demonstrate that Switzerland can continue to build on a strong foundation while expanding its international network and ensuring that its sources of innovation never run dry.