“Interest in the Basel Area as a location has markedly increased”
Digital health is growing in importance in the Basel Area. At the same time, many production plants are tapping into new markets with digitization. This is a strong signal for the innovative strength of the region, say Christof Klöpper and Domenico Scala. However, the CEO and Chairman of Basel Area Business & Innovation also see challenges for the region on the horizon.
Despite the coronavirus, Switzerland’s economy again showed above-average growth last year. How much did the Basel Area contribute to Switzerland’s economic success?
Domenico Scala: The healthcare sector plays a big part in this development. The pharmaceutical industry and the biotech sector account for 5.4 percent of Switzerland’s economic output – which is well above average compared with other countries. Because the Basel Area is a strong location for the life sciences, we were also outstandingly well-positioned in the crisis. Companies based here are also helping to manage pandemic-related problems – worldwide. The economy and political stability in the region have enabled the Basel Area to develop very well during the crisis and may possibly even emerge from it stronger.
Christof Klöpper: This development strengthens us because it shows very clearly that the Basel Area remains attractive as a business hub. In the past year, we have helped 39 companies to settle here. Of these companies, 28 operate in the life sciences and seven of these in digital health. Five production and engineering companies have also started operations in the Basel Area. In addition, we provided 76 start-ups with support in the founding of their companies.
Can we assume it will continue?
Scala: The basis, the demographic development and the framework conditions are good, and because many companies in the healthcare sector operate here I’m convinced that the growth will remain positive. But nothing comes from nothing. We must focus further on innovations, for only with innovations can we secure our prosperity. For Basel Area Business & Innovation this continues to mean focusing on the promotion of innovation and further developing the ecosystem.
”Companies and start-ups ask: where are my potential partners and how do I make contact with them?Christof KlöpperCEO Basel Area Business & Innovation
Klöpper: One of our core topics is digital health, the development and embedding of which in the region we are promoting with our DayOne initiative. We are strengthening the ecosystem with this approach – and it plays a central role in the future of the location: We see companies and start-ups no longer asking first about office space, tax rates and financing options. They ask: where are my potential partners and how do I make contact with them?
The ecosystem is becoming increasingly important as a location factor.
This offers opportunities for drawing attractive companies to the region. But in exactly the same way, we can also lose out if companies do not find the partners here that they want.
Another plus point of the Basel Area location is planning security: during the pandemic, could always turn to the authorities of our three funding cantons and to us at any time and so always knew where they stood. It is thanks not least to the very moderate restrictions on social life in Switzerland that investments remained impressive even during the pandemic.
What do you think are the most important success factors for the future?
Klöpper: They are not least the many companies here that manage to keep growing and developing new business areas thanks to their outstanding innovative strength. For example, companies that specialize in production automation and venture into health robotics, taking their know-how into the domain of surgery. Everywhere in the Basel Area we are seeing increasingly often how the transformation from pure manufacturing to digitization succeeds and how companies benefit from the synergies arising from the cluster.
Scala: The region will be successful if many players participate actively with their commitment and expertise to strengthen the cluster. This includes not only companies and start-ups, but also technology and innovation parks, foundations, universities and the many other excellent research institutions. We, therefore, attach great importance to cultivating close contacts with these actors and are grateful for the good collaboration.
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The life sciences traditionally play a central role for the Basel Area. What other sectors could shape the future of the region?
Klöpper: The life sciences form the core of the cluster, from which many other sectors are emerging. Thanks to digitization, we are seeing a growing fusion of technology and health – the catchphrase here is ‘digital health’. I’m not speaking only of apps for the smartphone, but also of algorithms that are applied in drug development and research. In addition, we have precision engineering, the MedTech sector and also new materials. These sectors will grow and strengthen the cluster overall.
What challenges can we expect with the rapid development of digital health?
Scala: Data protection plays a central role. The industry must, first of all, provide a better explanation of how they plan to implement the de-identification of personal data and what precautions they are taking. Secondly, they need to present a persuasive argument in order to get data providers such as hospitals and patients on board. If my doctor tells me there is a certain degree of probability that I will get dementia in old age, that does not help me as a patient. And if my health insurer learns of it, it can even become a problem. In the healthcare, of all sectors, it is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of trust.
”In the healthcare, of all sectors, it is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of trust.Domenico ScalaPresident Basel Area Business & Innovation
Klöpper: For the Basel Area, I see the challenge in the training of specialists for the digitization of industry. The region and the universities here still have some catching up to do in this respect.
What are the issues that you will primarily concern yourselves with over the next year?
Scala: In the Basel Area, we have always traded with the whole world. And when we see who is setting up companies here today, it is clear how international the list of founders is. Take for example the Clozels, who come from France and founded first Actelion here and then Idorsia. We must remain attractive as a region so that people like this continue to come here. I’m committed to a cosmopolitan region.
Klöpper: Interest in the Basel Area location and in our services has markedly increased. But this does not automatically lead to more companies settling and being founded here. Interest is one thing, the final decision is another. This is where we focus on building a persuasive argument. The results speak for themselves: our initiative in the area of digital health, DayOne, has picked up speed, which has led to more start-ups in this area. We’re working flat out to reinforce this trend.
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