Swiss medtech industry growing under demanding conditions
How robust is the Swiss medical technology industry? The latest Swiss Medtech Industry Sector Study conducted by Swiss Medtech and the Helbling Group provides answers. These were extrapolated from survey data submitted between March and May 2022 by over 500 medtech companies active in Switzerland.
The Swiss medtech industry is growing, despite the many challenges faced in the last few years. This continued expansion is due to the significant efforts and flexibility of companies. The medtech sector has created 4,500 new jobs in Switzerland in the past two years alone. Over one in a hundred workers in our country is employed in the field of medical technology. With a workforce of approximately 67,500, the industry generated revenues of 20.8 billion Swiss francs in 2021. The increase in turnover over the last two years was 7.6% – exceeding the average of the last ten years.
The impact of the pandemic is hardly surprising: Sectors such as In-vitro diagnostics & Laboratory supplies have grown significantly (more than 20%) due to their central role in dealing with the pandemic. In contrast, areas such as Orthopaedics & Traumatology saw slowed growth over the period under review due to the postponement of scheduled procedures. Sales in the field of Dentistry also declined in 2020 during the lockdowns, however, a significant 19% «catch-up growth effect» was reported for 2021.
The Swiss medical technology industry generated a trade surplus of CHF 5.9 billion in 2021 – contributing 11.5% to Switzerland’s positive trade balance. The EU remains the most important trading partner: around half of all Swiss medtech exports are destined for that region. Conversely, almost 60% of imports into our country come from the EU. Of all the member states, Germany is by far the most important trading partner for the Swiss medtech industry.
Peter Biedermann, Managing Director of Swiss Medtech, comments: «The entrepreneurs demonstrated exactly what they are capable of. They did not complain. Instead, they responded quickly to Swiss Medtech recommendations and worked hard to prepare for the time without the EU Single Market. Almost all Swiss medtech companies managed to meet additional third-country requirements for export in a timely manner».
Impact of the MDR: Higher costs, reduced innovation, less product diversity
Available domestic data on the impact of MDR confirm the results of a representative, Europe-wide survey published in July 2022 by the umbrella organisation MedTech Europe. The MDR has not been well received. Additional administrative workloads for medtech companies increase costs, tie up considerable internal R&D capacities at the expense of innovation, and result in cuts in product ranges. According to the MedTech Europe survey, 50% of manufacturers across Europe say they will reduce their portfolio due to the MDR; in Switzerland, the figure is 60%.
Three quarters of Swiss companies are calling for an opening of the Swiss market for products with non-European certificates. The European survey confirms this demand: 50% of survey respondents are no longer prioritising the EU market for the initial approval of their new products. Problems associated with implementation of the MDR are becoming increasingly obvious throughout the whole of Europe. Shortages in supplies of both existing and new products are also becoming apparent. Domestically, the situation is aggravated further as many foreign manufacturers are no longer prepared to bear additional administrative costs necessary to fulfill third country requirements for the relatively small Swiss market. «Switzerland would be well advised to ensure supply for its own population by diversifying the scope for procuring medical devices, as well as initiating acceptance of medical products with FDA approval,» says Biedermann.
New key topic: Sustainability becoming highly relevant for market access
The medtech industry must tackle many upcoming challenges – including digital transformation and an increasing focus on sustainability. This concern is permeating the entire industry; starting with the mining of raw materials, through to production and distribution, and ultimately, recycling. Five years ago, around half of Swiss medtech companies were active in this regard; today this figure has risen to over two thirds. From an industry-wide perspective, large and medium-sized companies are ahead of smaller enterprises. Parallel to the many companies demonstrating self-initiative, regulation is also dictating the pace. The European Green Deal represents comprehensive new regulations for climate and environmental protection at the European level. «The requirement for climate-neutral, energy-efficient, and resource-conserving business activities poses challenges for the medtech industry. It does, however, also offer opportunities. Those who prepare early will have a competitive advantage. Sustainability is becoming a highly relevant criterion to achieve market access,» says Swiss Medtech Director Peter Biedermann.
The Swiss Medical Technology Industry – Sector Study 2022
Swiss Medtech represents more than 750 members in its role as industry association for Swiss medical technology. With 67,500 employees and a contribution of 11.5% to the positive trade balance, medical technology is an economically significant sector in Switzerland. Swiss Medtech advocates for conditions that enable the medtech industry to perform at peak capacity and provide first-class medical care.