• Tuesday, April 23, 2024 @ 11:00 am

The life sciences sector (pharmaceuticals, vitamins and diagnostics) is Switzerland’s largest export industry. In 2023, it accounted for 38.5% of total Swiss exports and contributed CHF 105.5 billion to the foreign export trade.

Jan Lucht
scienceindustries | Head Biotechnology

The uncertain geopolitical situation, high raw material and energy prices and the strong Swiss franc characterized the economic environment in 2023 and had a negative impact on trade. Quarterly Swiss exports fluctuated, and the annual total fell by 1.2% to CHF 274.3 billion. While the life sciences sector recorded real export growth of 5.2%, nominal exports (adjusted for inflation and currency effects) fell by 3.8%. The sector was particularly affected by a decline in medicines exports (-8.5%).

In contrast, the immunologicals sub-segment, which includes biotech products such as monoclonal antibody therapeutics and vaccines, was only marginally affected. With an export value of CHF 47.1 billion (-1.4%), it contributed a significant share to the total Swiss exports in 2023. Growth in the other immunologicals categories more than compensated for the decrease of CHF 2.4 billion in human vaccine exports compared to the previous year in the wake of the COVID crisis. The growth of the immunologicals sub-segment has been remarkably dynamic: in 2023, exports were > 30 times greater than twenty-five years ago.

The life sciences sector has been a solid pillar of the Swiss economy and foreign trade for decades. In 2013 it took the lead as the largest export industry. It has shown remarkable resilience, continuing to grow even during the peak year of the COVID pandemic in 2020, when exports almost universally slumped. While exports from all other sectors combined grew by 81% in the twenty-five years from 1999 to 2023, the contribution of the life sciences sector grew by 400% over the same period (see Figure 1). The innovative strength, diversified product portfolio and the excellent international network of the Swiss life sciences industry provide financial stability at home and benefit its global partners abroad.

Figure 1: Annual Swiss exports according to industry sector demonstrate the increasing importance of the life sciences industries (pharmaceuticals, vitamins and diagnostics). This sector alone contributed 38.5% to the total Swiss exports in 2023. (Data: scienceindustries/Federal Customs Administration 2024, Swiss IMPEX database).

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