Exporting guide to Switzerland
Leader in innovation
Switzerland is number one in the Global Innovation Index. If you have a high-tech product or service to offer, you should find Switzerland a receptive market.
High purchasing power
Swiss consumers have some of the highest spending power in the world, and the country is an excellent test market for products and services.
Close relationship with the UK
Switzerland is among the UK’s most important science and innovation partners. English is widely spoken and the two countries are well connected, with flight times under 2 hours.
Switzerland: at a glance
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Opportunities for exporters
Switzerland is the UK’s eighth largest export market (ONS, 2018). There are excellent opportunities for companies with high-quality products that are looking for long term relationships. Strong links exist between the two countries in financial and business services, pharmaceutical products, manufactured goods, IT and retail.
United Nations (UN)
Several major UN organisations are based in Geneva, making it a significant centre for UN procurement of products and services. Visit the UN Global Marketplace (UNGM - www.ungm.org/) to view the kinds of commercial opportunities available from UN organisations.
Health and emergency organisations
There is a focus on health, emergency relief and crisis recovery, with organisations such as the International Red Cross headquartered in Geneva. There’s a need for medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, generators, vehicles, basic tools, communications equipment, water and sanitation supplies, shelter and domestic items, specialist consultancies and training, inspection services and freight forwarding.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is based in Geneva and operates the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. The UK is its second largest contributor (CERN, 2019) and only CERN member states can bid for contracts. Key opportunities include civil engineering, IT, electronics and equipment for experiments conducted in vacuums and at low temperatures.
Demand for high quality products
Switzerland has an advanced pharmaceutical market, especially in patented pharmaceuticals. Its per capita expenditure on drugs is among the highest in the world and there’s a growing market for new therapies.
Switzerland is a global leader in the development and production of biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and diagnostics (red biotechnology). There is growth potential in agricultural (green) biotechnology, industrial (white) biotechnology, bioinformatics, human life sciences (new compounds and molecules, drug delivery technology), nutraceuticals, contract research organisations (CRO).
Swiss pharmaceutical companies are interested in partnerships with UK universities, research centres and start-ups involved in gene therapy, nanomedicine and personalised healthcare.
Private security systems
The Swiss are becoming more security conscious and are investing significantly in individual alarms. Major supermarkets and department stores are now offering a growing selection of security devices and systems. After years of domination by local companies, the market is opening up to new products and suppliers.
Switzerland is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks because of its high tech infrastructure and financial services sector. Federal experts have strengthened crisis management plans and asked stakeholders to review their procedures with a focus on cyber security. The result is a growing market for cyber security solutions for critical infrastructure and in commercial sectors.
Spending on innovation
Switzerland has the world’s second highest GDP per capita, and is a country willing to pay for innovation. According to the most recent World Bank figures, it spent 3.4% of GDP on research and development, whilst the EU average is 2%.
Need for increased productivity and automation
Switzerland has very high labour costs, at more than twice the EU28 average. Swiss businesses are therefore looking for automated solutions to both their industrial and business processes. This creates demand for industrial robots, 3D printers, automated sales and checkout systems, drones, digital asset management and e-government technologies.
Mechanical and electrical engineering
Switzerland, like the UK, has a strong heritage in mechanical and electrical engineering. There are more than 1,100 companies in this sector in Switzerland, employing around 320,000 people. Swiss companies look for a competitive edge, and there is demand for innovative UK components in manufacturing.
Luxury and niche products
Swiss consumers value quality, originality and value for money. There is demand for products which are sustainable, ethical, fair trade, organic, recycled, upcycled, cruelty free, environmentally friendly and vegan.
Ideal product testbed
Switzerland is a multicultural market with four national languages. This makes it a good place to test how a product may be received by customers from different cultural backgrounds.
With online trade in goods growing by about 10% year on year, e-commerce is an increasingly viable sales channel to export to the Swiss retail market.