Friday, 16 January 2015

The UK and Switzerland’s - centres of innovation in healthcare

The UK and Switzerland excel in the healthcare life sciences, with their pharmaceutical sectors having served as key contributors to technological innovation. The sectors in both countries are leaders in Europe, as shown by the latest industry data from EFPIA (the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations). Of the European pharmaceutical industry’s total €29 billion annual research and development (R&D) investment, the UK accounts for 19% while Switzerland accounts for 17%. 

The UK pharmaceutical sector’s historical strength is shown by the fact that a seventh of the top 100 medicines in use today originate from research in the UK [1]. This commitment to innovation continues, with the pharmaceutical industry investing £11.8 million every day in R&D, exceeding that of any other industrial sector in the country. It makes a vital contribution to the UK’s economy, at around £5 billion per year, again greater than any other industrial sector in the UK [2]. In Switzerland, the strong contribution to the national economy is similar, with the pharmaceutical industry accounting for almost one third of total exports [3]. 

A further benefit to the UK and Swiss economies comes through the pharmaceutical industry’s role as a high technology sector employer. In the UK, the pharmaceutical industry employs around 68,000 people directly and generates thousands of jobs in related industries [3]. In Switzerland, the pharmaceutical industry employs around 39,500 people. Since 1995, the Swiss pharmaceutical industry has been increasing the number of jobs at an annual rate of 3.5%, which exceeds the job growth trend for the Swiss economy as a whole [3]. 

Given the key contribution that biotechnology is now making to healthcare, it is no surprise to see that the biotech industry is also prospering in both countries. Ernst & Young’s latest annual global biotechnology report reveals that the UK and Switzerland are the regional leaders in terms of new biotech product products [4]. Of the 2,743 products in the 2013 European biotech product pipeline, the UK accounted for 17%, while Switzerland accounted for 8%. However, what is more impressive is that these countries also lead in terms of products having reached the most advanced stage of clinical trials and therefore potentially close to reaching the market. The prospects for future biotech success also look good, with the industry in both countries benefiting from increased capital. The UK held top position in Europe for innovation capital raised with US$730 million in 2013, representing a 55% increase over 2012. In terms of attracting the most venture capital investment in 2013, Switzerland came top with US$266 million. 

The future

The UK and Switzerland have long recognised that innovation is a driver of economic growth and prosperity. Countries that are able to innovate stand the best chance of dealing with current and future global economic challenges. In both countries, several government agencies exist to spot opportunities and actively foster the environment for innovation. Support for projects in priority areas is provided through a variety of funding mechanisms and by connecting organisations in both the private and public sectors. This commitment to innovation is expected have an impact beyond individual organisations, as knowledge and skill sharing stimulates innovation in the wider economy.


1. ABPI (2011). ABPI Cymru Wales Annual Lecture. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.  
2. The pharmaceutical industry in the UK. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.  
3. L’industrie pharmaceutique – moteur de la croissance. Interpharma.  
4. Beyond borders: unlocking value. Global biotechnology report 2014. 

See the latest pharmaceutical jobs in Switzerland
See the latest pharmaceutical job in the UK

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