Coming back from the US in the mid-nineties, I have vivid memories of how complex and exotic it was to create a biotech startup in Switzerland. The progress of the last twenty years has been extraordinary. Last year, venture capital firms invested close to half a billion francs in Swiss biotech start-ups. In parallel, several sizeable venture funds dedicated to biotech have been launched. And Actelion, one of the most successful biotech companies worldwide, was acquired for USD 30 billion; proof, if required, of the quality of Swiss biotech.
Switzerland is an ideal location for the development of the biotech industry as it has several world class research universities with strong life and physical sciences activities. Innovation parks and accelerators have developed nicely in close proximity to these universities. The location of top pharma and food companies such as Roche, Novartis, Nestle, together with life science manufacturing giants like Lonza, provides tremendous partners for proven biotech start-ups.
In order to strengthen and improve our industry in the coming years, we need to further enhance framework conditions:
- provide more favorable conditions for the creation of funds to facilitate the growth of Swiss biotech firms
- establish a returnee program for successful CEOs and investors
- keep our borders open to access the additional diverse talents needed
- adapt the taxation system in so far as it affects young entrepreneurs.
President Emeritus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne