Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2020

Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2020



Number of companies


R&D investment

CHF 7.2 billion

Direct employees


National contact


Stephan Mumenthaler

Director general



Chemical industry snapshot

Switzerland’s leading exporter

The 250 chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences company members of scienceindustries contributes 45% of Swiss exports and constitute the country’s top export industry.


With exports of CHF 104 billion and imports of CHF 20 billion in 2018, members of our business association earned a trade surplus of CHF 54 billion.

Growing fast

Scienceindustries’ companies form Switzerland’s biggest industrial sector, ahead of machinery.

Powered by people

Scienceindustries members are massive employers, with 70,000 employees in Switzerland in 2018, and about 321,000 more abroad. They are also well qualified: 62% of employees in scienceindustries companies have a higher qualification, against 42% for Swiss industry as a whole.


The industry is characterised by specialised regional clusters industries:

Pharmaceuticals: Located in North-western (Basel) and Central Switzerland (Zug and Lucerne). Produces prescription and over-the-counter drugs (patented or generic) and ingredients.


Diagnostics: Central Switzerland (Zug and Lucerne). Healthcare products which aid physicians to diagnose diseases.


Vitamins: North-western Switzerland (Basel). Bulk product used in manufacturing or pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and animal feed.


Flavours and fragrances: Western Switzerland (Lake Geneva). Ingredients for manufacturing food, cosmetics and perfumes.


Crop protection agents: North-western Switzerland (Basel) and Wallis. Herbicides, fungicides and insecticides including their active ingredients, primarily used in agriculture.


Specialty and fine chemicals: Often providing tailored solutions involving intensive research and development, production of specialty chemicals is spread throughout Switzerland. The global annual demand for some of these specialties is often below a few metric tons, and all member companies are strongly export-oriented.

How are we doing?


  • Focus on research-intensive high-end specialties
  • Market leadership in many fields
  • Outstanding scientific and technological know-how and workforce skills
  • Development of innovation clusters aids large, medium and small firms
  • Supportive regulatory environment – including for patent and price issues


  • Skill shortages and a quota system for non-EU workers
  • Need for supportive regime for repatriation of profits to sustain Switzerland’s viability as a research location

Our contribution to a competitive Europe

A global research hub

Science and innovation are the basis for the economic success of our science industries. In 2018 scienceindustries members invested around CHF 7.2 billion in research and development in Switzerland, a third of their worldwide research investments.


Member companies focus on specialties, mainly pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, vitamins, crop protection agents, flavours and fragrances and fine chemicals. Specialty chemicals for industry purposes, pigments and dyestuffs constitute the rest.


Our success is based upon well-equipped regional centres, comprising universities, private research institutes and companies.


Swiss companies help drive research around the world, and leaders have research activities in the US, Singapore, Japan, as well as EU facilities in the United Kingdom and Germany. Collaboration with and investments in other companies are growing. Biotech companies are particularly important in identifying and developing new ideas, new technologies and innovative products. Companies in North-western Switzerland allocate around 20% of their R&D budgets to co-operative projects with external research groups.