September 10, 2020
Switzerland Corona

Swiss Medical Technology Industry is Robust

Sustained growth, high innovative power, major challenges and new opportunities – these are the results of the «Swiss Medical Technology Industry» (SMTI) Sector Study 2020 conducted by Swiss Medtech. The study published every two years was carried out in close cooperation with the Helbling Group. It is based on a survey conducted from March to May 2020 with the participation of 440 Medtech companies.

The Swiss Embassy in Berlin. Image: Ansgar Koreng / CC BY-SA 3.0 (DE)

The Swiss medical technology industry has been growing for years. It employs around 63,000 individuals and created 4,500 new jobs in Switzerland in the last two years alone. The 1,400 companies generated sales of 17.9 billion Swiss francs in 2019. At 12 billion Swiss francs, its share of exports accounts for 67% and Switzerland imported medical devices amounting to 5.9 billion Swiss francs. The medical technology industry thus accounts for a considerable 16.4 percent of Switzerland's positive trade balance.

Its most important trade partner is still the European Union (EU). The EU accounts for 46% of the Swiss medical technology industry's exports. Conversely, 54% of Switzerland's imported medtech volume comes from the EU. The industry cautiously predicts a 2% decline in sales for 2020, a year marked by COVID, while it confidently forecasts a growth of over eight percent for the following year.

Over the next two years, more than two thirds of all companies are planning investments either solely in Switzerland or both in this country and abroad. The main reasons given for investments in Switzerland are expertise in medical technology, a stable economic environment and high work productivity. Manufacturers spend an average of ten percent of their sales on research and development.

New framework conditions – new challenges
The regulatory requirements continue to intensify with the two new European regulations on medical devices and in vitro diagnostics (MDR, IVDR). The companies name the implementation of the new regulations as the main challenge. Fundamental changes are involved. Half of all manufacturers state that they are reducing their product range – by up to more than 20%. The industry anticipates that the new regulatory requirements will cause product costs to rise by an average of eight percent.

Advances in technology and increasing digitalisation mean that more and more companies from outside the sector – from the software segment, for example – are also moving into the medtech market. While this development intensifies the competition, it also offers medtech companies opportunities for strategic alliances.

Medtech-relevant trends
The SMTI 2020 also conducted a new analysis on medtech-relevant trends in the fields of product innovation, manufacturing processes, diagnostics, treatment and healthcare. «Materials Innovation» and «Smart Devices» are the main trends named by manufacturers. As with many other industries, medical technology companies cannot simply sit back and rely on their previous technical skills. Digitalisation, for example, has found its way on all levels. This is illustrated by Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, sensor technology, robotics, networked operating theatres, personalised medicine and e-health.

Ensuring high attractiveness of location
In terms of attractiveness of location, the surveyed companies see the biggest need for action in accessing qualified experts and in politically reliable framework conditions. The answers are highly topical. The Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) between Switzerland and the EU has still not been updated, which places the industry in great distress. There is also the matter of the upcoming popular vote on the Limitation Initiative. Adoption of the Initiative on 27 September would intensify the lack of experts in the industry, reinforce legal uncertainty between Switzerland and the EU for years to come and consequently put a strain on the relationship with Switzerland's most important trade partner. «Switzerland offers medtech companies traditionally attractive framework conditions. These are essential for success and international competitiveness. The high attractiveness of Switzerland as a location is an achievement. It is not guaranteed forever, so we have to look after this», says Peter Biedermann, Managing Director of Swiss Medtech.

Further information:  The Swiss Medical Technology Industry – Sector Study 2020

Source: Swiss Medtech