Sector-specific opportunities

The exchange rate makes the Swiss market favourable for British exporters and Swiss purchasing power is one of the world’s highest. Switzerland offers major export opportunities in the areas of pharmaceuticals, financial and business services, energy, ICT and to large scientific research centres.

You should carry out as much market research and planning as possible before exporting to Switzerland, using both desk research and visits to the market. You need to determine if there is a market for your product or service and whether your pricing is competitive.

UK DIT’s trade specialists can help you identify local representatives for your products in Switzerland. See:

UK DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. You can search for export opportunities in Switzerland at:


Government tenders in Switzerland is an electronic platform shared by the Swiss Federal Government, cantons and communes for public procurement purposes at: It offers a simple procedure for public contract-awarding authorities to post their tenders and relevant tender documents.

Interested bidders and companies are given an overview of all existing contracts across Switzerland and can download both the tenders and tender documents. They can ask any questions they may have directly on a question/answer forum on the portal.

See the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) for more information on Swiss public procurement, at:


Aid-funded business opportunities

Aid-funded business also offers prime export opportunities. 24 United Nations (UN) organisations are headquartered in Geneva making it a significant centre for UN procurement of products and services.

The main organisations in Geneva in terms of procurement are:

The UN Global Marketplace (UNGM) provides access to UN tenders at: and statistics on types and value of procurement carried out by each UN organisation. You must register here to be a potential supplier to the UN system.

Companies interested in doing business with the UN should:

  • have relevant products or services

  • be established for at least three years (if bidding for large contracts/international tenders)

  • have some export experience

In addition, both of the International Red Cross organisations are headquartered in Geneva and have many similar requirements to the UN:

In Geneva there is a particular focus on health, emergency relief and crisis recovery. Typical products and services required include:

  • medical equipment and supplies

  • pharmaceuticals

  • generators

  • vehicles

  • basic tools

  • communications equipment

  • water and sanitation supplies

  • shelter and domestic items

  • specialised consultancies

  • specialised training (to be delivered in French and English)

  • inspection services

  • freight forwarding

This is not an exhaustive list as requirements vary according to the UN’s response to global events.

Liaison with the UN organisations in Rome is handled by the UK Government office in Geneva. The Rome agencies focus specifically on the food and agriculture sector:

Contact Eleanor Baha MBE, deputy Director at DIT for further information on Aid Funded Business Opportunities –


Berne regional development

The Canton of Berne offers wide regional diversity which can benefit your business directly. The Bern Economic Development Agency is committed to improving the business environment in all their regions. There is tremendous potential right across the canton which they want to make available to businesses by implementing related projects and providing infrastructure.

A strong business location depends on the existence of efficient regional structures on the ground. Their expertise in economic development and their in-depth knowledge of local conditions will drive both your business and the development of the region forward. See the Bern Economic Development Agency site for more information on moving to Berne, start-ups, companies and innovation, at:


Regional development plays a key role in the Canton of Berne. It promotes infrastructure, development and bid-development projects. The Canton of Berne provides interest-free loans for building infrastructure, while contributions for innovative, growth-orientated projects are possible. The support is co-ordinated with the project in individual cases. The Canton of Berne co-operates closely with its partners in the regions.

To find out more about the process, subsidised projects, regional partners and events, visit the Department of Economic Affairs (beco Berner Wirtschaft) website:

[Source – Bern Economic Development Agency/Department of Economic Affairs]


Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals

Switzerland has a leading position in the global pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The city of Basel is a European centre of ‘big pharma’, and the country has a strong biotech industry. ‘Health Valley’ (biotech cluster in the French-speaking part of Switzerland) is the fastest growing cluster in the world and third European cluster after Cambridge and Oxford.

Switzerland’s biotechnology sector has:

  • 219 biotech companies

  • 60 biotech suppliers

  • a turnover of CHF 5.133 billion (2015)

Switzerland is also an advanced pharmaceutical market with:

  • per-capita expenditure on drugs among the highest in the world

  • consumption centred on patented pharmaceuticals

  • a ready market for cutting-edge therapies

High levels of out-of-pocket expenditure have resulted in the development of a mature and competitive consumer health sector.

Switzerland has become one of the global leaders in the development and production of biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and diagnostics (red biotechnology). 85% of all Swiss biotech companies play an active role in this field. 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)

  • instrumentation, systems and equipment

Swiss pharmaceutical companies are also interested in partnerships with UK universities and research centres/start-ups in innovative therapeutic areas (gene therapy, liquid biopsy, etc.).

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on biotech and pharmaceuticals business opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]



Given the premium Switzerland places on research and development, innovative UK businesses and companies with a niche chemical product will have a competitive edge.

Also, due to its geographical characteristics and the comparative lack of natural resources, Switzerland has to import virtually all the raw materials used in chemical-pharmaceutical production processes.

More than 80% of these imports are from European countries. In Switzerland, the focus is largely on the composition of substances rather than on synthesis, which mainly takes place in neighbouring countries.

The Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical industry operates nearly exclusively in specialty areas; around 90% of the Swiss chemical industry’s overall product portfolio are specialities. With more than 30,000 different products, it is exceptionally differentiated.

Opportunities in the Swiss chemical-pharmaceutical industry may arise where a UK business provides any of the following:

  • highly innovative or niche products

  • high-value ingredients – products or substances in the speciality area, such as pharma intermediates, agrochemical active ingredients or agrochemical intermediates

  • sought-after molecules made from renewable resources and with very specific, extraordinary characteristics

  • ICT solutions

  • vitamins / flavours / fragrances

  • crop protection agents

  • speciality and fine chemicals

The following business types will be particularly interesting to Swiss buyers:

  • businesses that act as specialised sub-contractors and/or service providers

  • multi-purpose producers who are capable of reacting to changing needs; especially companies offering the added value of environmental consideration and/or sustainability

  • chemical building blocks, technical and research services, contract manufacturing options, sampling and analysis services, waste treatment technologies and other related business solutions

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on chemicals opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Corporate education

Switzerland is home to many multinational companies and international organisations including:

They all use English as their business language and have significant training needs.

Competition from both local and international companies is very strong. UK companies working in specialised sectors or topics are more likely to succeed.

It is an advantage if training courses can be delivered in French and/or German, in addition to English.

Previous experience in working with international organisations, like the UN, helps to start negotiation with other organisations.

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on corporate education business opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Cyber security

The Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance (MELANI) co-ordinates cyber security issues in Switzerland. See:

A ‘National strategy for Switzerland’s protection against cyber risks’ was created to address the threat of cybercrime. This strategy provides a framework to address cyber risks more efficiently.

Switzerland is particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks because of its high-tech infrastructure and financial services sector. The potential risks for banks, large companies, local authorities, hospitals, energy and water infrastructures, rail and air transport are increasing.

Because of these risks, federal experts have strengthened their crisis management plans and are asking stakeholders to:

  • review their procedures with a focus on cyber security

  • focus on protection of vulnerable high-tech infrastructures and commercial assets

  • create an in-depth Public Private Partnership (PPP)

  • find efficient, feasible and tailor-made solutions

The result is a growing market for cyber security solutions in critical infrastructure protection and for commercial sectors.

Opportunities for potential UK suppliers within the Swiss cyber security market are many and varied. They include products and services providing protection against:

  • theft of information

  • unwanted external agents taking control of computer systems

  • destruction of computer systems

DIT’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) issues licences for the export of strategic goods. You should check your goods are meeting the legal requirements for export. See:

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on cyber security business opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Defence and security

The Swiss security and defence market has grown at 6% to 8% annually over the last decade.

The Swiss defence department, Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport DDPS ( offers opportunities in the areas of:

  • telecommunications

  • personal equipment and clothing

  • armoured personnel carriers

  • maintenance and spare parts

  • emergency response

  • airports

  • unlawful migration

  • drug trafficking

The Swiss are becoming more security conscious and are investing significantly in individual alarms. Complex, professionally-installed systems are preferred. Major supermarkets and department stores are now offering a growing selection of security devices and systems.

After years of almost total domination by local companies the market is opening up to new products and suppliers. Professional security systems are becoming the standard with the majority of medium and large companies.

Swiss law has recently been adapted to allow more CCTV camera installations to maintain public order.

Additionally, Swiss rail, road and public safety operators are constantly updating their emergency response methods.

DIT’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU)  issues licences for the export of strategic goods. Check your goods are meeting the legal requirements for export. See:

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on defence and security business opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Financial, professional and business services sector

Switzerland is a world-renowned financial centre with two main clusters. Zurich is the main centre for retail banking and insurance. Geneva is the centre of private banking and wealth management. The 275 banks in Switzerland generate turnover of over £3,000 billion and employ 104,000 people.

Regulatory requirements imposed on banks have steadily increased, resulting in the departure of several international banks and major restructuring of others.

Opportunities for UK-registered companies are mainly in the financial technologies and business services sectors including:

  • consultancy

  • communication

  • marketing

  • legal services

  • human resource (HR) services

Please note, however, that the competition, both local and international, is very high for these services.

Contact Senior Trade Officer: (for the German-speaking market) or: (for the French-speaking market) for more information on financial, professional and business services’ opportunities.

The Swiss Code of Obligations (Swiss CO) establishes the statutory framework for accounting and auditing in Switzerland. The Swiss Expert Association for Audit, Tax and Fiduciary (EXPERTsuisse) is the professional accountancy organisation and International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) member in Switzerland. Contact the IFAC Switzerland site at: for more information on accounting in Switzerland.

For more on the Financial Services sector in Switzerland, see the Swiss Bankers Association site at: and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance at: for information on financial policies and banking secrecy.

[Source – DIT/]


Food and drink

Switzerland was ranked the fourth largest per capita food importer in the world in 2015. It is a small but wealthy market. People are interested in high quality premium products that are unlike those already available on the market.

Total food and beverage imports from the UK into Switzerland were CHF 402.3 million in 2015.

The Swiss retail market is dominated by two major retailers, who together share about 75% of the market. A large portion of the rest of the market is made up of high quality retail chains.

Opportunities in Switzerland’s food and drink sector include:

  • ‘free from’ foods / healthier alternatives to existing product lines (no artificial colours and low sugar)

  • ethnic food

  • premium cuts of lamb and beef

  • seafood

  • alcoholic and innovative non-alcoholic beverages

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on food and drink opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Healthcare and medical technology (Medtech)

At CHF 71.2 billion, Switzerland has the highest healthcare expenditure in the world after the US and Norway (10.9% of GDP). It also has the third-highest life expectancy in the world.

Private health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland and Swiss people have easy access to the latest products and technologies.

Switzerland is a good export market in the healthcare field, especially for British companies which manufacture:

  • innovative products in the pharmaceutical sector

  • innovative products in the consumer health sector

  • medical devices

  • innovative products which fulfil World Health Organization (WHO) requirements

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on healthcare business opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


ICT and innovation

In 2017 Switzerland topped the Global Innovation Index, see: Its capacity for innovation influences all areas of its economy, notably those driven by technological developments. This, together with the pressure to digitise, opens the door to multiple business opportunities for UK companies.

The Swiss ICT sector generates an overall turnover of more than 20 billion Swiss Francs, which makes it one of the most important industry sectors for Switzerland. With a share of roughly 4.5% of Swiss GDP, the ICT sector is almost as important as the entire insurance sector.

Sectors investing most in information and communications technology (ICT) are media, banks, insurance companies, corporate services, research and development, printing and the public sector.

Potential opportunities in ICT include:

  • Swiss outsourcing of IT services

  • financial technology (FinTech) services

  • insurance technology (InsurTech) services

  • legal technology (LegalTech) services

  • secure storage facilities for ‘big data’ in Switzerland where 10% growth per year is expected

  • cloud services market to grow from £92 million in 2012 to £165 million in 2017

  • mobile developments such as mobile end-devices and apps

  • social computing

  • process optimisation

  • data security

  • data processing

  • telecommunications equipment

  • electronics

Other growth areas are:

  • innovative business models for energy companies

  • transport and logistics

Contact Senior Trade Officer: for more information on technology and innovation opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Large research centres

CERN in Geneva ( is one of the world’s most important centres for fundamental research in physics. It is a centre of excellence in engineering, offering business opportunities in the region of £160 million per year.

The UK is one of the member states that make CERN’s scientific achievements possible. CERN tries to achieve a balanced industrial return by doing business with firms in all the member states. Business is won through competitive bidding by companies in CERN’s Member States. All CERN bidding documents are available in English.

CERN works with a diverse range of firms of all sizes. It requires a constant stream of supplies and services. These include:

  • civil engineering

  • power distribution

  • superconducting magnets

  • cryogenics

  • ultra-high vacuum

  • electronics

  • mechanical engineering

  • radiofrequency equipment

  • computing infrastructure

  • site maintenance

Contact Deputy Director: for more information on large research centre opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Retail and luxury

Following the decision taken by the Swiss National Bank to remove the CHF/EUR cap in 2015, retail prices were lowered in order for local retailers to remain competitive with neighbouring EUR countries.

Switzerland is a relatively small market with corresponding sales volumes. Once established however, business relations are very pleasant, long-lasting and marked by a personal touch. The market’s multicultural character makes it particularly suitable for product-testing.

With online trade in goods growing by about 10% year-on-year, e-commerce has opened an increasingly viable sales channel to add to the traditional retail model.

Opportunities in the Swiss retail industry – local buyers and agents value:

  • brand reputation

  • originality

  • quality and value for money

  • reliability

  • added value – keywords such as sustainable, ethical, fair-trade, organic, recycled, upcycled, cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly, not tested on animals, vegan

  • relationship-building and personal contact

  • ethically fair production and a balance between price, production process and quality

Contact Trade Officer: for more information on retail and luxury opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Recruitment services

The recruitment services industry in Switzerland has grown in step with the needs of Swiss businesses. Over 300,000 individuals are placed with companies every year by employment agencies, which act as valuable partners by relieving the burden on HR departments

Temporary employment boosts the competitiveness of companies and of Switzerland as a business location by providing firms with the ever-important flexibility needed to survive in a tough market and, in many cases, acting as a springboard into the job market. Employment agencies match the needs of businesses to the skills of job seekers, filling over 300,000 vacancies every year and achieving a turnover of almost CHF 7 billion.

For more information on recruitment in Switzerland, see the website of the swissstaffing Association, the official recruitment services body, at:

[Source – swissstaffing Association]


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