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Companies invest more money in R&D in Switzerland

Syngenta employees carry out research on corn in Stein, canton Aargau, in November 2021. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Firms invested CHF16.8 billion ($18 billion) in research and development (R&D) activities in Switzerland last year, a 4% increase compared to 2019.

A survey carried out by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) and the Swiss Business Federation economiesuisse said the pharmaceutical sector was the biggest R&D investor (CHF6.2 billion, or 37% of the total).

The overall CHF1.3 billion rise since 2019 was in line with a recent upward trend, but it is all the more remarkable given the difficult economic situations in 2020 and 2021 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the FSO said in a statement on Monday.

Fundamental research fell from around one quarter of companies’ overall research investment in 2015 to 8% in 2021. This is mainly due to changes in the type of research carried out within pharmaceutical companies, the FSO said.

Looking at the different specialist fields, R&D investment in biotechnology has steadily increased since 2012, the statistics office said. In 2021, companies invested CHF5.9 billion in this area, or 35% of total R&D spending.

Firms invested CHF6.3 billion on R&D abroad – a slight decrease – the FSO said.

“After strong growth between 2012 and 2017, the current trend seems to show that companies are finding in Switzerland the means to meet their own R&D needs,” it said.

Last year, companies employed nearly 62,000 people working on R&D, an annual increase of 2% since 2019. A quarter of all research staff were women, a percentage that has remained the same over the past ten years.

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