Aargau – Scope for Life Sciences Innovations

Aerial photo of the Sisslerfeld site © Gerry Thönen

For many years, Switzerland has been one of the most innovative and competitive business locations in Europe, as demonstrated by various rankings such as the Global Innovation Index and the Innovation Union Scoreboard. The canton of Aargau, in particular, has successfully supported innovation with its high-tech programme. Alongside energy technology, nano-technology, medical technology, MEM and ICT, Aargau’s strong life sciences industry makes an especially significant contribution to Swiss innovativeness and to these high rankings.


A pioneering and inventive spirit has kept Switzerland at the cutting edge of the life sciences industry. From Bepanthen ointment and Voltaren pain relievers to products that cure tooth decay painlessly, ground-breaking developments in medicine regularly bear the Swiss seal of quality. Innovativeness can also be demonstrated by the statistics. According to the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, Swiss companies apply for patents for over 1,200 medical technology inventions every year.


Switzerland – European leader in life sciences and medical technology

Switzerland has the highest rate of labour productivity compared with other leading life sciences locations internationally.

No other European country has such a high concentration of medical technology companies as Switzerland. With around 50,000 full-time employees, it accounts for around 10 percent of Europe’s entire medical technology workforce. The huge pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, employs around 40,000 people, which is over one percent of all Swiss workers. Together with the workforce that services this sector, almost 180,000 people earn their living from the pharmaceutical industry. Medical technology and the pharmaceutical industry generate 6 percent of Swiss gross domestic product (GDP) in value terms.


Aargau – a life sciences cluster that is unique in the world

The Swiss life sciences cluster stretches from Basel to Fricktal in the canton of Aargau. Over 900 life sciences companies are present in the so called trinational valley region, which constitute about 40 percent of the world’s life sciences industry. Of the one million people living in the region, about one person out of ten is employed in the life sciences industry – as a researcher, technician, lawyer, manager, plant worker, university professor or student. There is an employment growth of about 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs in the industry each year. Switzerland is the leader in workforce in the life sciences industry compared to the size of its population. And nowhere else are so many life sciences jobs concentrated in such a small area as in Switzerland. In fact, Switzerland has the highest concentration of life sciences jobs in the world relative to the economically active population. And it also has the highest rate of labour productivity compared with other leading life sciences locations internationally.


DSM researcher © DSM

DSM researcher © DSM


Aargau – birthplace of life sciences products that succeed across the world

In the high-tech canton of Aargau, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry accounts for almost 28 percent of the entire value generated by manufacturing (BAK Basel Economics, 2013). Alongside Solvias and Tillotts Pharma, Fricktal is also home to worldwide companies such as BASF, DSM Nutritional Products, Novartis, Roche and Syngenta, which have been the driving force behind the region’s economy for decades. Bepanthen and Voltaren are just two of the world’s top-selling medical products developed here in the Aargau life sciences cluster.

With a turnover of around CHF 47.5 billion, Novartis is one of the biggest healthcare companies in the world. Its largest and most important pharmaceutical manufacturing site is in Stein in the canton of Aargau. This is where most medicines are manufactured, and also where the company launches its new products and stores all its active substances. Every year, Novartis produces medicines in Switzerland that are worth almost CHF 30 billion. Most of these are manufactured in Stein, where almost 2,000 staff produce around 3.5 billion tablets, capsules, ampoules, pre-filled syringes and injection vials annually. These are then exported to over 150 countries.


2 billion Swiss Francs of investment within a distance of 20 kilometres

Novartis is investing around CHF 650 million in its site in the municipality of Stein over several years, thereby emphasising the importance of its location in the canton of Aargau. Around CHF 150 million of this investment is going into the construction of a new packaging building for sterile pharmaceuticals as well as new technology and facilities, including an ultra-modern line for manufacturing freeze-dried products. A further CHF 500 million is being used to construct a new building for producing solid pharmaceuticals. The company has already invested around CHF 125 million in one of Switzerland’s largest data centres. Roche is also investing in Aargau. Kaiseraugst is home to one of Roche’s three global centres of excellence for the production of liquid, sterile pharmaceuticals for parenteral application as well as a laboratory for quality control and assurance. By 2019, Roche will have invested around CHF 1 billion in new buildings, including a training centre, four new office blocks for around 1,300 IT staff, a reception and auditorium centre and extensions to existing infrastructure. Kaiseraugst in the canton of Aargau is already the location for the company’s global production and logistics centre. With this new investment, the site will become one of Roche’s largest IT support centres in the world. “The investments in Kaiseraugst show our firm commitment to the region and underline the strategic importance of IT services to the company worldwide”, explains Jürg Erismann, Site Head Basel/Kaiseraugst.

In the high-tech canton of Aargau, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry accounts for almost 28 percent of the entire value generated by manufacturing.

Syngenta has invested more than CHF 200 million in its sites in Aargau in recent years. CHF 60 million went into updating infrastructure at its research centre in Stein (one of its three main global centres for research and development). CHF 120 million was invested in capacity increase of its production facility in Kaisten, which is where large amounts of vital plant protection ingredients are manufactured. In Münchwilen, Syngenta has invested CHF 40 million in laboratory, production and development facilities. Christoph Mäder, Member of the Syngenta Executive Committee, underlines the importance of Aargau for the company. “We are a global agricultural company with our research, production facilities as well as our headquarters based in Switzerland. We rely on having a good local framework to operate in. In Aargau we enjoy favourable conditions in an innovation-friendly environment. As a research business, we need this openness for our activities in Stein, Münchwilen and Kaisten. This is how we are able to devise solutions to sustainable food security for a growing world population. The good infrastructure, the proximity to leading research institutes and the region’s high quality of life and excellent recreational opportunities mean we can recruit the staff we need to further develop our company.”


Extracting DNA from agarose gel after gel electrophoresis © Roche

Extracting DNA from agarose gel after gel electrophoresis © Roche


Sisslerfeld life sciences campus – a real hotspot

Looking to the future, Aargau will continue to be an attractive location in which to invest. As one of the largest contiguous land areas in Northwestern Switzerland, the Sisslerfeld site in Fricktal offers a unique selling proposition. It lies in the heart of the Aargau life sciences cluster. The Sisslerfeld site covers about 300,000 m2, and will house a unique life sciences campus. Syngenta, DSM, Novartis and BASF and their previously described facilities are all based nearby.  Life sciences companies seeking to set up their research centre or a production facility here will find all the necessary links or players in their supply chain in the local area. In fact, this area of just 20 kilometres in diameter enjoys a concentration of expertise and specialist workers that is unparalleled worldwide, and represents a unique life sciences ecosystem. With its excellent transport links and proximity to Zurich and Basel airports, the Sisslerfeld site offers many other advantages as well. First-class research institutes such as the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and leading universities in the wider surrounding area allow access to a broader pool of highly skilled professionals and industry-specific expertise. The region is also an attractive place to live with affordable residential areas for staff. People working in Sisslerfeld enjoy a high quality of life and rapidly appreciate the benefits of making the region their future home.


Sygenta's research in Stein © Syngenta

Sygenta’s research in Stein © Syngenta


Breeding ground for successful pharmaceutical research and production

The attractive site covers a total area of about 300,000 m2 and offers scope for a variety of different uses. Individual plots are available, as is a large site measuring 212,500 m2 that is suitable for a major construction project. The site is reserved for construction development by the life sciences industry. Projects can be implemented rapidly and with minimal risk. The site is located on even ground. There is no contamination and the area is not at risk of flooding. The earthquake risk is very slight (risk level 1). Businesses can make use of the infrastructure and services of surrounding life sciences companies on request. These synergies mean that companies interested in moving to the site can save significant amounts of time and money when implementing their projects.


We are here to support you

Life sciences companies seeking to locate to the Sisslerfeld site will benefit from a comprehensive package of services. Aargau Services Economic Promotion offers free support to investors throughout the entire location process. It can provide information about the correct procedures, local conditions and required permits. The life sciences campus is a strategic project run by the Aargau government. Companies in the industry that settle here benefit from the goodwill and active support of the local authorities, which are extraordinarily business-friendly, pragmatic and focused on finding solutions.

“We rely on having a good local framework to operate in. In Aargau we enjoy favourable conditions in an innovation-friendly environment.” – Christoph Mäder, Member of the Sygenta Executive Committee

The Hightech Zentrum Aargau AG, the only centre of innovation excellence of its kind in Switzerland, offers an additional bonus. The Hightech Zentrum Aargau is a hub for knowledge and technology transfer. Experienced experts support entrepreneurs in areas such as innovation, technology, research, development and patent law. They advise businesses on innovation projects. They find the right partners in industry and universities and help with applications for research funding from cantonal, national and European programmes. The centre also supports feasibility studies.

Would you also like to become part of the Aargau life sciences cluster and boost your innovativeness in this unique fertile soil? Would you like to take advantage of Aargau’s impressive life sciences network and expertise? Aargau Services Economic Promotion will be delighted to provide you with further information.

Aargau Services Economic Promotion

Rain 53, CH-5001 Aarau, Switzerland

Telephone: +41 62 835 24 40




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