Medical technology
Switzerland’s key industry
1,350 companies, 54,500 employees, a turnover of 14.1 billion and an exports of 10.6 billion Swiss francs demonstrate the performance power of Swiss medical technology. With a share of 1.1% of all employees, 2.2% of gross domestic product, 5.2% of total exports and a 16% trade surplus, this innovative industry is a pearl of the Swiss economy.
Image source: BVMed
Image source: BVMed

Around 10,000 different product families reflect the diversity of the field of medical technology. The spectrum ranges from plasters, syringes, and wheelchairs to hearing aids and heart pacemakers, and culminates in CT scanners. With its approximately 54,500 positions, the Swiss medtech industry contributes 1.1% of all employees within the country, representing the highest percentage share in Europe. Furthermore, no other European country has such a high enterprise density in this category. According to the 2016 Sector Study (SMTI), the Swiss medtech industry is comprised of around 1,350 companies; including 300 manufacturers, 480 suppliers, 220 distributors, and 350 specialised service providers.

Almost all medtech companies are SMEs. Ninety-four percent have fewer than 250 employees. The six percent of companies that employ more than 250 individuals are mainly manufacturers. These include Swiss companies with global operations such as Roche Diagnostics, Sonova, Ypsomed and Straumann. However, the Swiss medtech scene is also strongly influenced by the production plants and branches of foreign corporations such as Johnson & Johnson Medical, Biotronics, Medtronic, Zimmer Biomet or B. Braun.

Constant sales growth
The high enterprise and employee density testify to the high economic importance of Swiss medical technology. According to SMTI Report 2016, it generated sales of 14.1 billion Swiss francs - which corresponds to 2.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The industry has seen a constant growth of around six percent a year since 2010. This is significantly higher than the GDP, and that of other industries in Switzerland.
The growth in sales of medical technology in Switzerland is mainly driven by exports. With a volume of CHF 10.6 billion, the industry comprises 5.2% of the country's total exports, and the trade surplus for Switzerland accounts for approximately 5.6%. Of this, the USA and Germany are the most important export and import markets.

High innovative power
The share of medical technology in Swiss health care expenditure is only five percent. New products and state-of-the-art medical procedures continually improve the quality of patient care and increase cost efficiency. Swiss companies are competitive at a global level thanks to high-tech devices, 3D and robot technologies, eHealth solutions, or combined pharmaceutical and medical products. Domestic medical technology boasts the highest density of patent applications in Europe. The pace of innovation is also extraordinary: in 2014, 44% of product portfolios were less than five years old. Depending on their size and age, Swiss medtech manufacturers spend up to 30% of their turnover on Research and Development. New products are mainly created by internal processes  and evolution, or through collaboration especially with third parties.

A strong workplace
To this day, the medtech industry has been able to benefit from the attractive Swiss workplace. Favourable framework conditions include an innovation-oriented environment, continuing access to highly qualified specialists, and the relatively low corporate taxes. Traditional advantages are the high quality, first class universities and research institutes, as well as political and economic stability. Regional micro-clusters of companies and institutions historically evolved from the watchmaking, machinery, and pharmaceutical industries. As a result, the entire Swiss medtech value chain is able to source its needs from its own immediate surroundings.

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