Greater Zurich Area – The Hotspot for Life Sciences in Europe’s Most Innovative Environment

In recent years, the Greater Zurich Area (GZA) has established itself as a leading center for life sciences in Europe. Major international companies are based here, attracting investors and professionals from all over the world. So, what sets Greater Zurich apart and what makes the region so attractive to companies in the healthcare industry? 

Switzerland is one of the leading life science hubs in Europe. Thanks to a strong product pipeline and close collaboration between research and the private sector, the biotech industry, in particular, is very productive. In the Greater Zurich Area, which encompasses nine cantons on the important north-south axis, internationally active companies have their headquarters and thus operate in an innovative and dynamic ecosystem. 

Research and development in balance: successful innovation drivers 

Switzerland has the second largest product pipeline in Europe, after the UK and ahead of Germany. In terms of phase 3 products, Switzerland even leads the way in development, according to data from Biotechgate. In a European comparison, Switzerland also invests an above-average share of GDP in research and development at 3.2%, which is only surpassed by Sweden, according to KPMG. Leading international companies headquartered in the Greater Zurich Area, such as Biogen, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, Apellis, Roche and Amgen, conduct groundbreaking research in the Greater Zurich Area. Such private sector companies often cooperate with local university research institutions, including the world-renowned ETH Zurich and University of Zurich. Also noteworthy in terms of research is the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Ticino. Specialized in immunology, it was one of the drivers of coronavirus research during the pandemic. 

State-of-the-art infrastructure and collaboration spaces 

Collaboration between different players is also found in the Greater Zurich Area between large established companies and small agile start-ups. The internationally renowned Bio-Technopark Schlieren, for example, offers a platform for this: More than 50 companies and 30 university institutions have already rented space on an area of over 90,000 square meters. These state-of-the-art yet affordable laboratories are just one example of the excellent infrastructure that the Greater Zurich Area has to offer for companies in the healthcare industry. The startup scene is also developing dynamically: the Top 100 Startups Awards 2022 honored 34 startups from BioTech and MedTech as promising new companies. 

Innovation world champion 

The fact that so many promising startups are founded every year is no coincidence: for years, Switzerland has been considered the innovation world champion in terms of highly innovative research and patent applications. According to the Global Innovation Index 2022 and the European Innovation Scoreboard, Switzerland and the Greater Zurich Area in particular are among the most important hotspots for innovation in Europe. 

Optimal framework conditions and easy market access 

Switzerland’s business-friendly climate provides companies with a key competitive advantage by allowing them to adapt quickly to new technologies, while the simple and efficient registration process for intellectual property protection further encourages innovation: Unlike abroad, a single authority coordinates approval applications in the field of biotech and genetic engineering. In addition, the Greater Zurich Area is suitable as a strategic trial market (“early adopter market”) for the introduction of new biotech drugs due to the international recognition of its high quality standards. 

Highly educated professionals 

Switzerland and the Greater Zurich Area are among the most important talent hubs in Europe. According to INSEAD’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022, Switzerland is the world’s most attractive and competitive country for professionals and leads in developing, attracting and retaining them. Universities of applied sciences and universities such as ETH Zurich (No. 11 worldwide) continuously train highly qualified specialists.   

The high density of qualified employees as well as the business-friendly regulations and flexible labor market make the Greater Zurich Area an attractive location for global companies, SMEs and start-ups. In addition, the high quality of life is a compelling attraction for international professionals and creates an attractive work-life balance.   

The future of the healthcare industry 

With its “Health2030” strategy, the federal government has committed to further strengthening the healthcare system, advancing digitalization and promoting new technologies. Thus, the infrastructure in the life science sector will also continue to be greatly expanded and innovation strengthened in the coming years. For example, the Bio-Technopark in Schlieren is being continuously developed and adapted to the needs of existing and new companies. Furthermore, initiatives such as the Health Tech Cluster Switzerland (HTCS) and the AO Foundation are advancing the ecosystem by bringing together companies from the fields of medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and molecular biology. This results in projects such as the Medical Campus in Davos, which specializes in treatment, research and teaching in the field of asthma and allergies. Such collaborations strengthen and promote the existing ecosystem and make the Greater Zurich Area the ideal location for forward-looking companies.