The Swiss economy is driven by the service sector (which accounts for 74 per cent of GDP) and industry (which accounts for 25 per cent of GDP). The industrial sector is dominated by chemicals and pharmaceuticals on the one hand and engineering and metals on the other. Within chemicals and pharmaceuticals, Switzerland can boast global firms like Novartis, Roche, and Syngenta but the sector is also home to a dense network of smaller medtech, biotech, and nanotech companies.
To put Swiss life sciences in a wider European context, the pharma sector in Switzerland employs 47,000 which ranks the country no.6 in Europe behind Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Spain. In the medtech sector, there are 63,000 employees placing Switzerland no.5 in Europe behind Germany, France, the UK, and Italy.
Remarkably, the UN Global Innovation Index has ranked Switzerland the world’s most innovative country for twelve years in a row. Large established companies such as those mentioned above are important, but innovation is also supported by small and mid-size companies. The status of this country in first-class research is confirmed by the high and increasing number of FDA approvals and patent applications to the European Patent Office. Switzerland spends over CHF 22.5 billion on research and development (R&D) annually, which equates to around 3 per cent of GDP. The private sector contributes over two-thirds of this amount.