The Basel region is one of the world’s undisputed leading destinations in the life sciences sector. But not only in this sector - especially in related industries, too, such as chemicals, nanotechnology, medtech, cosmetics and nutraceuticals, there is a growth of interesting clusters of successful companies in the Basel region. In addition, there are quite a few specialist companies, for example in the precision goods industry in Jura, logistics in Canton Baselland and commerce in Canton Basel-Stadt.
The following is a brief overview of the relevant industrial sectors in the Basel region:
- Biotechnology and Life Sciences: more and more companies are developing not only chemical but also biological processes the manufacturing of active ingredients. This also includes the big global companies in the Basel region, namely Novartis, Roche and Syngenta. A further very successful company is Actelion, which is one of the fastest-growing biotech companies in the world. Other successful biotech companies are Basilea Pharmaceutica, Evolva, Polyphor, Santhera Pharmaceuticals and Bachem. The promising biotech and start-up companies in the Basel region include Piqur, Cellestia Biotech, CRISPR Therapeutics, Nouscom, Strekin and T3 Pharma. Aside from Novartis and Roche – two of the world’s three largest pharmaceutical companies – there another 600 life sciences companies. Moreover, many global players have also opted for the Basel region in the past few years, including Bayer, which has its Consumer Care Division headquarters in Basel, and Abbott, which has set up its Established Pharmaceuticals division in Canton Baselland. Companies such as Tillotts from Japan, Skyepharma from Great Britain and Dr. Reddy's from India operate successfully out of the Basel region.
- From Chemicals to Agribusiness to nano: the chemical industry is steeped in tradition and remains one of the region’s most important employers. Today, companies with global operations such as Lonza, Clariant,and Syngenta have their headquarters in the region. A hotspot of the chemical industry is the municipality of Muttenz just outside the city of Basel. Muttenz is home not only to Clariant, but also to numerous other companies – including Bayer Crop Sciences, Comar, Rohner Chem, PanGas, AVA Biochem and Brenntag Schweizerhall. The Infrapark Baselland offers ideally equipped premises for research-based and manufacturing companies and is the only place of its kind in Switzerland. Many companies also specialize, for example, in agrochemicals. The best-known of these companies is Syngenta. But Lonza and the Swiss subsidiary of BASF also have among others established parts if not all of their crop protection divisions in the Basel region. And one of the “hidden champions” is Bioreba in Reinach, a leading global company in Agro Diagnostics.
The Basel Region has also seen history written in the Field of nanotechnology: the local company NanoSurf, for example, developed the microscopes that will be used by NASA for its Mars mission; Rolic Technologies produce nano components that are built into all new televisions; and Concentris, which is likewise based in the Basel region supplies, scientists all over the world with nanomechanical sensors. The Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) of the University of Basel is regarded worldwide as a centre of excellence and pioneer in the nanosciences.
- Cosmetics and Neutraceuticals: while the industry giant Doetsch Grether has its headquarters in Basel, other important cosmetics companies can also be found in Canton Baselland: these include Mifa AG in Allschwil, the US company Colgate Palmolive in Therwil, the German company Henkel in Pratteln, Beiersdorf with its Nivea sales organization in Münchenstein and the leading producer of natural cosmetics Weleda, which is based in Arlesheim. As a further offshoot of the life sciences industry, a cluster of specialist producers are developing food supplements, above all the Dutch conglomerate DSM, which operates the largest production plant in the world for vitamin E in Fricktal. But also Evolva, Jungbunzlauer, the Israeli company Frutarom and the European branch of Indian company Davis Nutraceuticals are leaders in this sector. And then there are the traditional food producers: Ricola, the world-famous producer of natural herb cough drops and teas, comes from Laufen; the food conglomerate Nestlé produces mayonnaise and mustard under the Thomy brand in the heart of Basel; and the retailer Coop not only has its headquarters in Basel, but also operates several production plants in the region – such as meat processing by Bell.
- Medtech and Precision Goods: Switzerland has the world’s highest density of companies in the field of medical technology. One of the hotspots of this important industrial sector is the Basel region, where it has its origins in the amalgamation of know-how from the life sciences and watchmaking sectors. Today the region’s medtech sector is being shaped by international frontrunners such as Straumann and Johnson & Johnson (formerly Synthes). But numerous small and medium-sized companies, such as Medartis, Composites Busch and BienAir, are also active here. It is thanks to the watchmaking industry - steeped in tradition in the Jura - that exceptional know-how was acquired in the field of precision engineering. Today this know-how is being applied increasingly in other industries as well. Numerous well-known companies of international renown also get high-quality components for their products manufactured in Jura – including Victorinox, producer of the iconic Swiss Army Knife. But the watch industry itself also has a tradition in the Basel region. Around 100 companies are enjoying the growing demand for Swiss-made watches. Aside from domestic watch brands, such as Maurice Lacroix, Oris and Richard Mille, major international luxury goods and lifestyle brands, such as Fossil, Bulgari and Richemont, have production facilities in Canton Jura and the wider region.
- Mechanical, Electrical Engineering and Metals Industry and Information Technology: in the greater Basel area, there are 50 companies engaged in the Mechanical, Electrical Engineering and Metals Industry (MEM) and related sectors. More than 10,000 highly qualified people with expertise in the machining of metals, ceramics and plastics, in materials technology and in the design and construction of CNC machines and electronic components contribute to the Basel region’s position as a leading location for precision engineering. Many companies in the MEM industry have specialized in the life sciences and produce plant, equipment and instruments for their customers for use in the manufacture of pharmaceutical or chemical products. Nine of these companies are world leaders in their specific field. Thanks to a highly qualified workforce, companies like Willemin-Macodel, Biwi, Endress+Hauser, Habasit, Sauter and Georg Fischer JRG successfully service the global market with their high-tech products. The high-growth Basel region is an attractive location for companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Adobe, for example, operates a development centre here for its content management software (which arosed from the acquisition of Day Software). A special field of the local ICT cluster is bioinformatics with leading companies such as Genedata, Clinerion and BC Platforms. In the course of further digitalization in the life sciences, this field is likely to see strong growth in the future. It is no coincidence that the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics has its headquarters in Basel.
- Logistics, Commerce, Finance and Creative Industries: the 990 logistics companies in the Basel region handle almost 20 million tonnes of economic goods every year. The companies benefit not only from the outstanding geographic position, but also from a strong economy with countless companies dependent on logistics services. World-leading logistics companies are established in the Basel region and offer comprehensive solutions for supply chain management – they include Panalpina, Kerry Logistics, DHL Switzerland, the M+R Spedag Group, Gondrand, Ziegler, Fracht AG, Fiege and Agility. Thanks to its outstanding geographic position and end-to-end infrastructure, Basel also has a long tradition as a city of trade and commerce that stretches back to the Middle Ages. The benefits of this location are exploited today by companies as diverse as Oettinger Davidoff (tobacco), Dufry (retail trade), Valora (a retail and trading group), Coop (Switzerland’s second-largest retailer), Transgourmet (wholesaler for the catering industry), Manor (Switzerland’s largest department store chain) and also Work in Progress and Tally Weijl (both fashion companies). And the US fashion giant Fossil has also relocated its European headquarters to Basel. The company is by no means the exception: for example, the bicycles of the well-known US producer Cycling Sports Group are sold all over Europe from Basel. Basel was already established as a financial centre back in the Middle Ages. Today there are more than 40 banks, around 50 asset management companies, and a further 50 insurance companies based in the region. The greater Basel area also has the highest density of foundations in the world: there are no less than 1100 foundations domiciled in the region. And Basel is also home to an institution of global importance in the shape of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The prosperity of the Basel region is further reflected in an established creative industry. Major graphic artists, gallerists, architects and designers work in the Basel region – for example, the furniture makers Vitra and the internationally renowned architecture office of Herzog & de Meuron, as well as the prestigious specialist publisher Karger. In addition, the MCH Group stages two major annual events of global importance in the shape of the art fair ArtBasel and the watch and jewellery fair Baselworld.