Switzerland boasts an ecosystem that is rich in history in the field of medical technology: “All major MedTech companies have their headquarters in Switzerland”, explains Lukas Sieber, Executive Director USA Greater Zurich Area Ltd. As part of a webinar entitled “Scaling Medtech in Greater Zurich”, Sieber seeks to examine the development potential of the Swiss MedTech network together with stakeholders from Switzerland and the USA. “The field of medical technology is one of the most high-performance industries in Switzerland”, says Sieber.
Dense network of MedTech expertise
Alfred Niederberger, CEO of the MedTech firm 41medical, concurs with Sieber’s assessment: “Highly specialized companies help to create an ideal environment for the development of medical devices”. At present, a total of 1,400 separate businesses make up the Swiss MedTech industry, with the trend pointing in the direction of further growth within the sector. Niederberger adds: “For every problem there is an expert nearby to help”. Moreover, the MedTech network also comprises elite-level universities as well as companies. This combination produces a fertile breeding ground for start-ups: For example, since 2010 an average of 24 spin-offs have been established from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) per year.
Given that the realization of a concept via a pilot project all the way through to approval and market launch is a risky undertaking, suppliers such as 41medical support companies with a product idea throughout this process. In fact, 41medical supports firms of all sizes during the product development, licensing and production stages. To this end, the company has also established a start-up incubator in order to provide start-ups with the resources required to develop a product to market maturity.
Ecosystem relies on strong research institutions
Nicolas Bouduban shares the view that start-ups are reliant on the support of the ecosystem: “Innovation is not only a question of products, but also of business models and new concepts”, explains the CEO of the swissm4mcenter. His company is an example of these new concepts, according to Bouduban himself. In the field of additive manufacturing – a new, albeit highly promising sector – the swissm4mcenter offers guidance and support for start-ups. Clarity on issues such as security, processes, quality assurance and financing can be gained through the umbrella organization of the swissm4mcenter. “3D printing is seen as a major opportunity, but one which also comes with inherent dangers”, Bouduban says. The aim here is to bridge the gap between curiosity in innovative technologies and applicability for existing companies. To achieve this, investments in research institutes such as the swissm4mcenter are needed, Bouduban states. This is currently an urgent priority in Switzerland: “Major investments in research facilities give us grounds for confidence”.
Greater Zurich is considered the most attractive location within Europe
Recent developments such as the opening of the swissm4mcenter augur well in terms of building bridges between start-ups and the market with the aim of meeting the challenges posed by the strict regulatory landscape that applies in the area of medical technology. Dean Zikria, CEO of the consultancy firm Mind Machine LLC, also values the network in the Greater Zurich Area. Zikria launched the Spirosure project in the field of breath analysis and diagnostics in Zurich. Today, he analyzes companies from the perspective of investors with Mind Machine LLC in the USA. His objective here is to help these firms become more strongly customer-oriented. Moreover, Zikria’s history of collaborating with the Greater Zurich Area extends over many years. For this reason, he concludes: “My first recommendation for companies looking to establish their business in Europe is always Zurich”.
by Smilla Diener