Strategy & Management

Innovative Chemistry Between Mountains and Lakes

The Chemical and Life Sciences Industry of Switzerland is Characterized by Specialized Regional Clusters

09.12.2019 -

Swiss chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies help drive research around the world, and major players have research activities in the US, Singapore, Japan, as well as EU facilities in the United Kingdom and Germany. But do not underestimate the role of the domestic regional clusters and industrial sites.

As outlined in the article by Scienceindustries on the previous pages, the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech industry of Switzerland is characterized by specialized regional clusters industries. Pharmaceuticals companies that produce prescription and over-the-counter drugs are predominantly located in North-western (Basel) and Central Switzerland (Zug and Lucerne). Central Switzerland (Zug and Lucerne) is home to the diagnostics industry that manufactures healthcare products which aid physicians to diagnose diseases. Major players in the flavors and fragrances market which synthesize ingredients for manufacturing food, cosmetics and perfumes call the area around Lake Geneva in Western Switzer­land their home base.

Well-known manufacturers of vitamins used in manufacturing or pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and animal feed are located in the Basel area, as are producers of crop protection agents such as herbicides, fungicides and insecticides including their active ingredients, primarily used in agriculture; the latter do also operate production sites in the canton of Valais in Southern Switzerland.

The specialty and fine chemicals industry that is supplying intermediates and ingredients and providing tailored solutions involving intensive research and development to all the sectors mentioned so far is spread throughout Switzerland. The global annual demand for some of these specialties is often below a few metric tons, thus production sites can be located in more remote areas as the requirement to handle bulk logistics is less important than, for instance, the attractiveness of the region or life and labor conditions for skilled and highly qualified workers. An industry cluster of chemical and pharmaceutical companies focused on the life sciences sector can be found in the canton of Ticino. Located south of the Swiss Alps, Ticino is the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The canton’s strategic geographic position represents a bridge between northern and southern Europe and between the dynamic economic areas of Lombardy in Northern Italy — with Milan at its heart — and the Basel-Zurich area in Northern Switzerland.

Basel Area: Reorganization of Industrial Locations

Effective December 31, 2018, Clariant sold the Infrapark Baselland and its activities at the Muttenz site to Magdeburg, Germany-based energy service provider GETEC. In addition, GETEC also acquired the production and infrastructure facilities of Novartis, located on the nearby Schweizerhalle site. While Clariant’s industrial park was already spun-off into Infrapark Baselland, a legal entity, Novartis’ industrial park business was just estab­lished via a carve-out as an initial step of the sales process. GETEC is now in a position to integrate and develop the two adjacent parks. The neighboring industrial parks east of Basel cover a total area of 51 ha, thus making the combined sites the biggest independent industrial park in Switzerland.

The two sites house large Clariant and Novartis production facilities as well as manufacturing facilities of other well-known pharmaceutical and chemical companies such as Bayer and BASF. Recently, mid-October 2019, Novartis sold one of its chem­ical production facilities located on the Schweizerhalle site to Syngenta Crop Protection that will manufacture agrochemical active ingredients in the plant in the future.

By selling the respective stakes to one professional operator, a new and diversified industrial park with economic significance for the entire region will be created. The objective of the transaction is to further increase the competitiveness of Infrapark Baselland as a chemical life science park and to create better growth opportunities for new companies operating on the site.

In May 2019, Novartis sold its property in the Basel Klybeck area to Swiss real estate developer Central Real Estate Basel. The Klybeck chem­ical and life science production site covers approximately 30 ha and was jointly operated by Novartis and BASF as the remaining owners. The location with a unique heritage was the nucleus of the chemical industry in Basel and Switzerland. The Klybeck site hosted the headquarters of Ciba-Geigy, through whose merger with Sandoz in 1996, Novartis was created.

With the sale to an experienced real estate developer, Novartis pushes forward the development of the area located close to the city center of Basel and enables to realize the “Klybeck Plus” project, a development initiative launched with the canton of Basel-Stadt. The goal is to establish an urban area that offers space for living, work, leisure and culture. The character of the site which is located in an urban area has changed fundamentally in the recent past: industrial and pharmaceutical production have lost their relevance, while laboratories and offices remained.

Pharmapark Zofingen: Small Yet Outstanding

Centrally located in the life science cluster of North-western Switzerland, the Pharmapark Siegfried in Zofingen may not be one of the largest, but it is certainly one of the most attractive pharmaceutical parks with a long tradition. Siegfried, founded in 1873, operated as a fully integrated research-based pharmaceutical company until 1991 and is a leading CMO partner for the global pharmaceutical sector today. Headquartered in the Pharmapark Zofingen, Siegfried operates nine production sites in six countries in total.

The life science cluster of North-western Switzerland takes the lead worldwide. It represents a large reservoir of skilled and well-trained employees in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is decisive for the success of every company operating in this field. In addition to Siegfried, two pharmaceutical companies, Celgene Chem­icals and Elvetix Pharma, run a production facility at the Zofingen site. The cooperation is tailor-made and not subject to any fixed parameters. The individual needs of the Pharmapark companies are identified and met accordingly.

Since April 2019, NovoMOF, one of the most observed and respected start-up companies in Switzerland active in the field of advanced materials with focus on metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), also produces at the Pharmapark Siegfried. Maintenance, repairs, issues concerning safety, health and environment, and security services at the site are taken care of by Bilfinger Industrial Services Schweiz. More than 50 Bilfinger staff members work at the Zofingen site. Supply and waste disposal is carried out by Primeo Industriecontracting, a subsidiary of Münchenstein-based Primeo Group. Primeo provides all utilities, such as power, gas, steam and pressurized air as well as resources such as water.

Visp: Expansion and Development into a High-tech Center

Founded in 1897 in the small Swiss town of Gampel in the canton of Valais, Lonza initially produced electricity used to manufacture chemicals such as calcium carbide. In 1909, Lonza moved to nearby Visp (photo on this page), where it started to transform itself from an electricity-generating through a chemical company to one of the world’s leading suppliers to the pharmaceutical, healthcare and life science industries. Even today, the plant in Visp with a workforce of approx. 3,200 employees is still Lonza’s largest site and one of the most significant for production and R&D.

For the Life Science Ingredients division, the Visp site produces a number of chemical intermediates and ingredients — including some of Lonza’s most established products, dating back to the first decades of the 20th century — for a broad range of end-applications, including pharmaceuticals, vitamins, nutrition products, agrochemicals, dyestuffs, adhesives, as well as for the electronics, aerospace and automotive industries. In the Custom Manufacturing division, the Visp site specializes in the production of microbial biopharmaceuticals, as well as in the production of regulated intermediates and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), highly potent active pharmaceutical ingredients (HPAPIs), antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and peptides for pharmaceutical applications.

In July 2019, Lonza announced the start of an expansion to its bioconjugation facility in Visp. Building on 12 years of experience in the exacting bioconjugation space, Lonza’s expansion will meet the development and manufacturing needs of pharma and biotech companies developing a new generation of therapies. The Swiss contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) is currently building a biopark at the Visp site for its Ibex Solutions-branded offerings. Ibex will be a campus of five state-of-the-art manufacturing complexes that provides biopharma customers with agile capability from late discovery to clinical and commercial manufacturing. The biopark will be built in a stepwise fashion. Two of the five 6-floor buildings are currently under con­struction and due for commissioning in mid-2020.

The expansion that is part of Lonza’s strategy to develop Visp into a leading high-tech center by 2030 will span the next two years. Bringing bioconjugates to market remains complex and Lonza is working at all stages of development and manufacturing. From 2020, all elements will be available at a single site through Ibex Solutions and the newly expanded HPAPI facility.

Ticino: Life Science Valley in the Heart of Europe

In Ticino the pharma industry plays an important role, and top-quality n­iche producers in the life sciences field located in the canton cover the entire pharma supply chain. The Farma Industria Ticino (FIT) association of chemical and pharmaceutical industries, founded in 1980, is a private organization that currently counts 31 member companies, with a combined workforce of 2,900 employees and a total annual turnover of approximately 1,7 billion Swiss francs.

Activities of the associates range from preclinical and clinical drug development to chemical and formulation process development to indus­trial manufacturing of different classes of APIs and of a great variety of drug products forms. The vast majority of FIT companies also offer services such as contract research and manufactur­ing. Several investments accounting for almost 500 million Swiss francs have been realized by FIT member companies in Ticino in recent years, mainly in R&D and innovation.

Ticino’s biggest city, Lugano (photo on the opposite page), is home to Cerbios, a privately held company and FIT member and one of the three founding members of the Proveo alliance. The collaboration of Cerbios with AGC Biologics and Oncotec formed in 2015 provides efficient solutions to the market for the process development and manufacture of antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). Proveo combines industry experience and competencies with proven capabilities and the latest in technological innovation. The global collaboration that operates two more sites in Seattle, WA/USA, and Copenhagen, Denmark, respectively, will benefit from Cerbios’ investments at the Lugano location. As announced earlier this year, the Swiss CDMO further invests in its high-potency API (HPAPI) manufacturing capacity. Following the completion of a new conjugation suite for ADCs a new HPAPI production line due in the second half of 2020 will enable Cerbios to accommodate larger volumes and batch sizes. These investments also benefit the Proveo alliance and help to develop the Lugano site into a hub that can cover the entire bioconjugation/monoclonal antibodies supply chain.



Untere Brühlstr. 4
4800 Zofingen

+41 62 746 11 11
+41 62 746 11 03

Cerbios Pharma SA

Via Pian Scairolo 6
6917 Barbengo-Lugano

+41 91 9856311

Getec Group

Albert-Vater-Str. 50
39108 Magdeburg

+49 391 2568-100
+49 391 2568-120