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Swiss research: the pharmaceutical industry is the leading investor in 2021

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In 2021, private companies spent CHF 16.8 billion in Switzerland on in-house research and development (R&D) activities. This represents an increase of +4% per year since 2019, the year of the last survey, according to a survey carried out by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) in partnership with economiesuisse. With an amount of CHF 6.2 billion, “Pharmaceuticals” is the branch that invests the most.


The pharmaceutical industry, leader in R&D

With CHF 6.2 billion spent, or 37% of total R&D, the pharmaceutical industry still clearly dominates the Swiss business research landscape. The “Research and Development” sector, which includes institutions specializing in research, is the second most important sector (CHF 2.2 billion or 13% of total expenditure). The “Machinery” sector comes in third place with an amount of 1.5 billion francs.

In terms of trends, only the “Pharmaceuticals”, “Research and development” and “Information and communication technologies” (ICT) sectors will see their R&D expenditure increase between 2019 and 2021. These sectors seem to have been less sensitive to the economic uncertainties linked to the COVID-19 pandemic than the other sectors of economic activity.


Biotechnology still growing

Spending on biotechnology has continued to increase since 2012. In 2021, companies spent CHF 5.9 billion in this area, or 35% of total R&D spending. Compared to 2019, these amounts have increased by 10% on an annual basis. In contrast, over the same period, the amounts invested in nanotechnology stagnated and remained marginal, with only 172 million francs spent in 2021.


Significant decline in spending on fundamental research

While basic research has accounted for about a quarter of the research activities of companies since 2015, its relative share will fall to 8% in 2021. The reason for this sharp decline is mainly due to the change in the type of research carried out within pharmaceutical companies. While it is normal in the life cycle of research activities for basic research to move to the level of applied research, the magnitude of this phenomenon is striking over such a short period. The relative share of basic research is thus returning to levels similar to those observed in 2012.


Source: Press Release