Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Category

Innovation of 190 Euro regions compared – Swiss and Germans shine

November 9, 2012

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2012 was published in early November- a comparative assessment of how European regions perform with regard to innovation. The report covers 190 regions across the European Union, Croatia, Norway and Switzerland. The Regional Innovation Scoreboard is based on the methodology of the Innovation Union Scoreboard (IP/12/102).

– 41 regions in the first group of “innovation leaders”
– 58 regions in the second group of “innovation followers”
– 39 regions are “moderate innovators”
– 52 regions are in the fourth group of “modest innovators”.

Considerable diversity in regional innovation performance not only across Europe but also within the Member States. The most pronounced examples are France and Portugal. Others in that category are Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

The most homogenous countries are the moderate innovators Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, where all regions except one each are also moderate innovators.

The situation is similar in Romania and Bulgaria where most or even all regions are modest innovators.

The most innovative regions in the EU are typically in the most innovative countries: Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Finland. In Germany, 12 out of 16 regions are innovation leaders. In Finland 3 out of 5 regions and in Sweden 5 out of 8 regions are innovation leaders.

Only in Denmark, the majority of the regions are innovation followers, and 2 out of 5 regions are innovation leaders, including the capital region of Copenhagen and Midtjylland. The regional innovation diversity is very low in non-EU Switzerland, which according to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2011 outperforms all EU Member States: all Swiss regions except one are innovation leaders.

GM technology – the Big 6

February 10, 2008

Biotech companies are using genetically modified (GM) technology to mould climate change into a market opportunity. The aim is to grow plants with stronger, longer roots, develop plants that better conserve water, change the way the plant develops so water can be directed more to grain development etc.   

Monsanto, the biggest of the Big 6 in GM technology, gets much of the attention and flak. It has turnover of around $US9 billion. It is doing field trials in dry areas (Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). It spends 10% of sales on R&D ($US2 million/day), and sees drought-tolerance as a key area. Monsanto aims to have its first transgenic drought-tolerant corn seed on the market in 2012 (the development phase generally takes 6-8 years) It is also testing drought-tolerant corn. Monsanto equities were trading at a P/E ratio of 42 prior to Wall Street slide, which is an indication of investor confidence in GM technology!  

Bayer, the German multinational is No. 2 – turnover of $US8.4 billion.

The 3rd player is Switzerland’s Syngenta, which has a significant global reach and turnover of around $8 billion. Syngenta is pursuing “water optimised” corn technology.

The 4th player is BASF, also German ($5 billion turnover in agricultural products) recently announced a $US1.5 billion deal with Monsanto to develop high-yielding, drought-tolerant crops. 

The 5th player is Dupont. It has recently done a deal with Israel’s Evogene Ltd, giving DuPont’s Pioneer unit exclusive rights to genes associated with drought-tolerance in corn, soybeans.

The sixth player is Dow AgroSciences.

 Corn is the focus for virtually all six companies – the raw material for a multitude of processed foods, a major animal feed and used in ethanol production. The downside is that some farmers have mixed feelings about a drought-tolerant corn. Currently, US farmers pay about $US245 for a bag of Monsanto’s “triple-stacked” biotech corn seed, which protects against pests and is immune to weedkiller. A bag of conventional corn seed sells for around $US100.  

Source: SMH and in-house research.  

Singapore steals a march – Novartis announces US$700m investment

December 28, 2007

CANBERRA: 28 December 2007.

The Singapore Government has reaffirmed Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis’ biggest ever investment.

It involves a cell-culture production facility in Singapore to support its growing pipeline of biopharmaceuticals. It is due for completion by 2012.

The plant, to be located near Novartis’ existing operation producing drugs from chemically synthesised substances, will support both clinical and commercial production of potential new products including monoclonal antibodies to treat rheumatoid arthritis, oncology, asthma, spinal chord injury etc. At full capacity, it will employ 300 workers and produce drugs using mammalian cell culture technology. The investment is part of the Novartis Biologics unit, which brings together key elements for fast, high-quality R&D activities in biological medicines manufactured via laboratory-created processes involving living cells. Biologics now accounts for 25 per cent of the Group’s clinical research pipeline.Says Thibaud Stoll, Head of Global Biopharmaceutical Operations, Novartis“We have six facilities at the moment in biopharmaceutical operations – five in Europe and one in California. This new one will expand our operations in Asia and also in biopharmaceuticals.”

The investment follows Novartis’ new tablet facility in Tuas, Singapore (US$180 million), which will manufacture existing Novartis pharmaceutical brands, such as Diovan® – the world’s most prescribed high blood pressure medicine – and new products like Tekturna®/Rasilez®, the first of a new type of high blood pressure medicine. By 2011, the 28,500 sq. m. plant will be manufacturing around 3.3 billion tablets with 160 staff and lean-manufacturing practices.

About Novartis

Novartis was rated No. 1 among pharmaceutical companies worldwide in Fortune’s 2007 ranking of “Most Admired Companies”. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis’ presence in Singapore began in 1971, with the opening of Ciba-Geigy. Following the merger in 1996 between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, Novartis was created, with the company establishing its Asia-Pacific head office in Singapore.

Its other local operations include the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), which holds the mandate for discovering and developing therapies for neglected diseases, including dengue and tuberculosis, and a production facility for the CIBA Vision Business Unit, part of Novartis’ consumer health business platform that also includes over-the-counter medicines and animal health products.

In Singapore, Novartis employs over 800 people, across pharmaceuticals, consumer health and vaccines and diagnostics. Activities include marketing, R&D, manufacturing and regional management.

Why Singapore?

The Singapore Government views these latest investments as a clear signal of the tremendous growth potential for Singapore’s biologics and pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.

In 2006, Singapore’s biomedical sciences output grew 30% to US$15.9 billion. It now boasts 25 pharmaceutical and biologics manufacturing facilities, with other heavyweights GlaxoSmithKline, Genentech, Abbott and Lonza all taking advantage of the region’s business benefits.

The Singaporeans claim it has a reputation as the most competitive and trusted site for pharmaceutical bulk activities and secondary manufacturing, and is now aggressively pursuing investments in biologics. In less than two years, Singapore has attracted five biologics investments totaling over US$1.5 billion.They see Novartis’ investments in Singapore as a significant endorsement of the island state as a value-adding partner to world-class pharmaceutical companies.

Says Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry:

“The biotechnology facility will be the first biologics manufacturing investment in Singapore by a pharmaceutical company and our fifth commercial scale biologics plant to date…it further reinforces Singapore’s position as a leading location for world-class biopharmaceuticals manufacturing.”

There are 4,000 people employed in the local pharmaceutical/biologics sector, with 2,000 more required over the next three years. Lim says the government has been working closely with companies like Novartis to further augment its pool of skilled manpower to support this industry. A program to develop skilled pharmaceutical workers without prior experience in the industry will be launched soon.

According to Novartis, Singapore was picked as the ideal location for its new facilities after a thorough selection process. Says Tom Van Laar, Head of Global Operations, Novartis Pharma AG, “Singapore is attractive because of its increasingly strong biomedical cluster and proximity to growth markets in Asia. In addition, a solid educational system and favourable socio-economic conditions assure access to local and international talent.”

Australia’s view

The Singapore investment has been greeted with muted dismay by Australian industry analysts.

Novartis Australia is headquartered in North Ryde, in the biotech corridor in northern Sydney, where there is talk about action to create a true cluster to match that of Singapore.

Total employment across Australia is around 500, and Novartis’ annual R&D spend is reportedly around $27 million.

It was envisaged that Novartis would view Australia as its Asia Pacific node and keen to be part of recent talk about Australia becoming a global centre for clinical trials.

As officials are keen to explain, Australia has a much superior R&D base in biotechnology, with a strong history of Nobel Prize winners etc. Singapore is also viewed as an economy with a population smaller than that of Victoria, and artificially sustained by government subsidies.   

However the real problem appears to be that the talk about Australia becoming a global centre for clinical trials has not progressed into any tangible policy or initiatives. Australia’s reluctance to play the subsidy game, as well as its current labour shortages, were thought to have been the other main factors in favour of Singapore.

Time to move on investment hubs

November 6, 2007

A US colleague recently asked me where the main investment hubs were in Australia. She said she knew about Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but after cruising the various websites she was more confused than never. A week later a chap from Switzerland asked roughly the same question.

I replied that there’s no consensus or considered view on this. However it got me thinking – investment is the key to economic development. So could we develop a framework of investment hubs that could be marketed to local and foreign investors, both large and small? In coming months, I will address all states and territories.

 Here are my initial impressions of the competitive advantages held by the main hot spots, and the themes around which investment hubs could be positioned. First up is Queensland. The key point here is that the state government is pretty aggressive about its ED agendas, and is one of the more ‘regional thinking’ states.

Let’s start at the Top End and work south. I figure there are 10 latent investment hubs there.

Cairnswhere the competitive advantage lies in co-location of tropical reef and rainforests; international airport; proximity to Asia and the Pacific Islands.

  • Hub angles – sustainable tourism; tropical health & medicine; aviation (including Outback); marine industries; international aid.

Townsville – access to Barrier Reef; Defence bases; Mt. Isa connection; international airport.   

  • Hub angles – minerals processing; defence technology; tropical health & medicine; aviation.

 Mackay – proximity to coal and mineral resources; access to Barrier Reef.   

  • Hub angles – minerals processing; mining technology; export of containerised food and agricultural product.

 Gladstone – minerals processing & energy facilities; port infrastructure; civic buildings.  

  • Hub angles – as for Mackay, but with additional energy aspect.

 Sunshine Coast – natural beauty; environmental icons; educated, well-heeled population; lifestyle image.  

  • Hub angles – education; environmental management; creative industries; smart Internet-based companies; new age technology (food, construction etc.)

 Brisbane – Australia’s third city; climate; competitive cost of living; excellent airport and adjacent precinct.

  • Hub angles – financial services; aviation; ICT; biotechnology and wider life sciences; education; logistics; construction.

 Ipswich Road corridor – engineering capability; competitively-priced land; access to Brisbane port and airport. 

  • Hub angles – heavy engineering; building and construction; logistics.

 Toowoomba – service centre for Darling Downs; climate; rural lifestyle.   

  • Hub angles – food processing; agricultural and water equipment & services; environmental management; light engineering.

 Logan Corridor – access to airport & port; manufacturing capability.

  • Hub angles – light engineering; food processing; logistics.

 Gold Coast – natural beauty; tourism icons; lifestyle and entertainment.

  • Hub angles – as for Sunshine Coast, but wider-scale e.g. marine engineering, medical services.

 These are indicative only, and we welcome any additions or comment. Contact us at for further information

Tasmania – Adventure Island?

October 16, 2007

In mid 2006, Rod Brown (manager of this blog) spoke at the LGAT conference in Hobart.

His message was that regions MUST think about a ‘positioning strategy’ – just as businesses do – and the creation of a strategic architecture that helps firms capture or create business opportunities.

This architecture is a unique combination of infrastructure, technologies, core competencies and human capital that can take advantage of a business or trade opportunity.  

Tasmania is nice compact region, with an excellent brand and credentials in environmental management, a track record in manufacturing, and the need for value-adding niche industries. I posed the question – could Tasmania develop a strong adventure and leisure industries agenda?

I explained that there are three major adventure chains in Australia – Paddy Palin, Kathmandu and Mountain Designs. Three years ago, I browsed around the latter’s Launceston outlet and asked the manager if there were any Tasmanian products in stock – he could only point to packets of beef jerky. But the shelves were full of high value, foreign and interstate product lines:
§          Hiking boots and thermal clothing – Europe, USA.
§          Hiking and camping cooking utensils – France, Switzerland
§          Specialist measuring and optical equipment  – Switzerland, Germany, Japan.
§          Energy food and drink – New Zealand, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
§          Kayaks and small, specialist boats – New Zealand.
§          Fishing equipment – Japan, RO Korea, Taiwan, China. 

There were no Blundstone boots (iconic Tassie firm since 1870), or kayaks, or maritime gear where Tasmania has capability. People say that we can’t compete in this industry. Rubbish. It hasn’t stopped NZ developing a strong presence in this field, or Rivers making quality footwear in Ballarat, or RipCurl and Quiksilver making Torquay a world centre for surfwear.

The answer is a global network of facilities, with the high-value manufacture and management activities located on-shore.

If this has resonance with you, email me on because there are a couple of government programs that might fit your needs.