Switzerland has a well-established chemical and pharmaceutical industry that plays a significant role in the country's economy. The sector has a long history and is Switzerland's leading exporter, generating roughly 50% of total annual exports and 5% of GDP. There are approximately 1,000 industry operators, including many major multinationals. Employment in the Swiss pharmaceutical and chemical industry is significant and contributes to the creation of many jobs in the country. In 2020, the sector employed around 74,000 people in Switzerland and over 338,000 internationally.
Swiss pharmaceutical and chemical companies have a strong global presence. Many of them are multinational corporations with operations and subsidiaries in various countries. Research and development (R&D) play a crucial role: Switzerland has world-class research institutions and universities that collaborate closely with industry players. The government also supports R&D activities through grants and funding. As a result the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical industry is renowned for its innovation. The country has a robust intellectual property protection system and. patents play an important role in protecting and commercializing innovations in the sector. Products are known for their high quality, precision, and reliability. Swiss companies adhere to stringent quality standards and regulatory requirements. The industry is committed to maintaining safety, efficacy, and sustainability in the production. Switzerland supply chain infrastructure is well developped and supports the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The country has advanced manufacturing facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technologies. Companies often engage in contract manufacturing and supply raw materials, intermediates, and finished products to global markets.
The first chemicals and pharmaceuticals plants emerged in the 19th century and were involved in manufacturing dyes for the textile industry. Virtually all of the best-known Swiss pharmaceutical firms originated as chemical industrial companies, in which the manufacture of pharmaceutical products was later added as a separate division alongside the others. The chemical industry manufactured various products in addition to its original dyes, which – besides the pharmaceutical ones – included active ingredients for the agricultural sector and a wide range of other chemical products, including plastics and their precursors. In recent decades these pharmaceutical divisions have been split off from the others and continued as independent firms and then merged with other acquired pharmaceutical companies.