Beyond the cliché: the real advantages of business in Switzerland
Meet Kirsten, our new U.S. representative with over 30 years of expertise in the biotech industry. Having worked across diverse cultures, including Switzerland, her insights are invaluable for companies eyeing European expansion. Explore the Swiss landscape through her panoramic view, revealing a world of opportunities for ambitious enterprises.
Kirsten, you’ve worked in the biotech industry for over 30 years. Which developments in that sector impressed you most?
Wow – tough question! One highlight was having a front-row seat to the dawn of the monoclonal antibody age. These molecules changed everything about how autoimmune diseases were treated and dramatically improved patients’ lives.
In the early 2000s, the Human Genome Project generated a nearly complete human genome sequence. This revolutionary breakthrough eventually led to tremendous scientific advancements, like targeted therapeutics, pharmacogenomics, cell therapy and, of course, gene therapy.
One area of drug development that can be directly linked to this breakthrough scientific achievement is the advancement in the discovery and development of rare disease therapeutics. Today, it is possible to identify mutations, deliver better diagnostic tools, discover and develop life-changing treatments and dramatically improve patient outcomes.
You know, the USA, Switzerland, Japan and Central and Eastern Europe. In what way did your international experience prepare you for your mission to woo US companies to Switzerland?
In essence, my multifaceted experiences across Switzerland, Eastern Europe and within global corporations with major footprints in Asia and the Americas have given me a panoramic view of the biotech industry. This positions me as a credible and insightful advocate for growing companies. I can share relevant experiences and provide cogent advice as these organizations consider Switzerland as the base of their business expansion strategies.
Which stereotypes about Switzerland do you have to debunk when you discuss the country as a business hub?
Switzerland is a vibrant business hub, and although there are stereotypes about the Swiss business environment, it’s critical to look beyond the clichés and understand the real advantages that a Swiss location confers to growing businesses.
For example, a perception exists that Switzerland is prohibitively expensive for businesses. Companies that operate in the country benefit from the nation’s high productivity and efficiency levels, as well as its stable economic environment. Switzerland’s business environment is structured and well-regulated but sometimes is accused of being overly bureaucratic. I always found regulations transparent, consistent, and clear, making this part of my job responsibilities easier. Switzerland’s reputation for having a traditional, ordered culture can overshadow its excellence in innovation. The country is at the forefront of research and development in scientific and engineering disciplines and invests significantly in innovation. No surprise that Switzerland frequently ranks high in global innovation indices.
There’s one stereotype that is absolutely true, however: Switzerland is indeed one of the top places on earth for skiing!
You’ve lived in Switzerland for a while. What is the best memory you have of your time here? What do you miss about the country?
Our family is so grateful for having had the opportunity to live in Switzerland for 4 years. Some of our fondest memories are centered on our enjoyment of the “Alpabzug” in the autumn when cows grazing in the mountain meadows, are brought down to the valleys for the winter. It’s a tradition that celebrates the culture and heritage of the Swiss Alps.
In Switzerland, many shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays. We enjoyed a “Wanderweg” (translated literally, a wandering walk) in the woods during fall, visited Lake Zürich in the summer or headed to the slopes for a day of skiing in winter. This tradition of using Sunday to rejuvenate and prepare for the week ahead is something that our entire family misses!
The Basel Area is a thriving Life Sciences hub. Besides the home-grown giants like Novartis and Roche, there is a flourishing startup landscape, and many international biotechs like BeiGene and Moderna found their way to Basel. What makes the Basel Area so unique and attractive for US biotechs, in your opinion?
The region has so many attributes to recommend it as a terrific location for US biotechs wanting to expand into Europe. The Basel Area offers biotechs unparalleled scientific and commercialization talent. When set against the backdrop of world-class infrastructure and state-of-the-art research facilities and institutions like the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, or the Basel-based Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE of the ETH Zurich) , the result is an environment where innovation thrives and the exchange of intellectual and scientific thinking flourishes.
The Basel Area offers several innovation parks, incubators and advisory groups dedicated to supporting earlier-stage startups and nurturing their growth and success. The Swiss regulatory framework is favorable for biotech businesses, with transparent and efficient processes. Of course, the region has a robust financial environment with several venture capitalists, angel investors and institutions eager to invest in promising biotech startups.
Beyond the business advantages, the Basel Area offers a high quality of life, with excellent public services, cultural offerings and recreational opportunities. In essence, it offers a unique combination of infrastructure, talent pools, strategic advantages and a conducive business environment, making it a terrific choice for US biotech companies seeking to expand and grow in Europe.