The canton of Solothurn is Switzerland’s med tech hotspot: Major companies develop and manufacture at the south foot of the Jura Mountains. “We maintain very close business relations with small and medium-sized enterprises here in the canton,” says Thomas Schädler, Vice President of Manufacturing at DePuy Synthes.
Küschall AG produces more than 10,000 wheelchairs annually in Witterswil. The DePuy Synthes distribution center in Selzach delivers 22 million parts per year, corresponding to more than 3 million patients. Within the course of a year, Ypsomed AG manufactures more than half a billion pen needles and more than 100 million pens in the canton of Solothurn. In 2015 Spirig Pharma AG produced over 542 metric tons (597 short tons) of its Daylong sunscreen.
The canton of Solothurn has a very high density of med tech companies within Switzerland. According to the med tech survey of the cantonal business promotion of summer 2016, close to 12 percent of all Swiss med tech jobs are located in the canton of Solothurn. One Solothurn employee in 18 works in the med tech sector – manufacturers, suppliers, and also IT service providers are responsible for the numerous sought-after jobs. The vast majority of the med tech companies located in the canton are SMEs.
As a service laboratory and research institute, the RMS Foundation works closely with the various med tech companies. “We see the advantage of the network that exists between the different companies in the region,” says Lukas Eschbach, Head of Materials and Marketing at the RMS Foundation. Thomas Schädler, Vice President of Manufacturing at DePuy Synthes, also stresses the density as a business location advantage. He states that DePuy Synthes maintains very close economic ties with small and medium-sized enterprises in the canton.
Large talent pool
The sector focus of the med tech industry is the positive consequence of a typical structural change which began in the watch industry crisis of the 1970’s. The great know-how of Solothurn’s traditional metalworking and precision engineering industry was increasingly used in the manufacture of med tech products at this time. The employees have the relevant training and education. The large talent pool is one of the key reasons why US biotechnology company Biogen is building a state-of-the-art production plant in Luterbach, which it intends to bring into service in 2019. Natascha Schill, Managing Director of Biogen, emphasizes: “Well-educated employees who are used to working precisely and reliably are necessary for the maintenance of our plants or, for example, logistics. This means the region of Solothurn with its history in precision industry is well-positioned.”
The closely interlinked network and the specific sector know-how make the canton of Solothurn extremely interesting for the location of further med tech companies – the same applies to the expansion plans of existing companies. There are currently two notable examples of this: Sensile Medical AG is going to double its number of employees to between 120 and 150 by the end of 2017. “We are in a phase of rapid expansion caused by the large number of development projects with well-known pharmaceutical and biotechnology customers,” says CEO Derek Brandt. Ypsomed AG is also on a growth trajectory. In January this year, it celebrated the start-up of a new production line. The considerable volume of investment by Ypsomed AG in Solothurn is a clear commitment to the canton of Solothurn as a business location. Governing council member Esther Gassler also expressed her delight about this at the inauguration ceremony. She said she was proud that Ypsomed AG was intensifying its business activities in Solothurn.
The canton of Solothurn’s business promotion has produced a film in collaboration with Insertfilm AG exploring the med tech sector in detail. The film is available at www.standortsolothurn.ch.
Photo: Ypsomed AG opened a new production line in January this year (Copyright: Ypsomed)
About the author
Karl Brander was joining Solothurn Economic Development Agency SEDA over eight years ago. Before this, he got his PhD degree in Molecular Biology, Immunology and Allergology followed by several years of product and business development positions in Swiss companies and a position as director of sales of a US company. Karl Brander is executive director of the international and national investment program at SEDA, attracting and securing investment projects to the Canton of Solothurn.