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Pharmaceutical industry Austria: Fertile Ecosystem

In fact, the pharmaceutical sector has long been one of the most important industries in the country. 150 “conventional” pharmaceutical companies operate here. Together with biotech firms and producers of medical products, more than 800 companies in the field of life sciences employ more than 60,000 people in Austria. They are striving to develop drugs and treatment methods, manufacture them and ensure that they reach the people who really need them – namely the patients.

Major investments in the pharmaceutical industry

A whole series of large investments has demonstrated that the pharmaceutical sector continued to develop dynamically again in 2017. Boehringer Ingelheim began construction on a production facility for biological medicinal products. 500 employees are expected to be hired alongside the existing work force of 1,600 people. The Novartis subsidiary Sandoz also invested heavily in its production plant in the west of Austria. Here facilities producing biologics and biosimilars were expanded featuring investments in the three-digit million euro range.

Further examples include the increased commitment of MSD Animal Health, Merck and Sigmapharm, which all implemented substantial increases in production capacities or rediscovered the advantages of Austria as a business location. Several hundred new, highly-qualified jobs were created on the basis of these investments.

At meetings and events, I like to ask my industry colleagues what they believe to be the specific competitive advantages of the business location. Their responses regularly confirm that the country scores high thanks to its pharmaceutical-friendly ecosystem. 

Naturally, this does not mean at all that business location decisions automatically favor Austria. For example, Shire announced last year that it would continue certain research activities in other countries and downsize its Austrian staff by 500 employees. In return, the company’s Group-wide research on gene therapy will be conducted in Austria in the future. Moreover, Austria will remain one of the firm’s largest production sites worldwide, with a work force of 3,500 employees.

My colleague Philipp von Lattorff, CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Regional Center Vienna, stated that the decisive reason for selecting Vienna was that a company could build just as quickly with the same costs as elsewhere. He called upon Boehringer Ingelheim to further expand its commitment in Vienna because everything here in Vienna has worked out well for the company.  

Location advantage Austria: highly qualified employees

Human resources managers can draw upon a large pool of talented people in order to recruit highly qualified employees. The 60,000 employees in life sciences companies offer industry know-how and above all experience working in the sector. This is complemented by scientists and doctors involved in clinical research at internationally respected institutions carrying out basic biological research (e.g. IMP and iMBA) or at medical universities. Last but not least, the Austrian school system featuring biotech-oriented upper classes in secondary schools and technical colleges makes a supply of technical employees available to the business community. Barbara Rangetiner, Managing Director of the Austrian subsidiary of the Swiss firm Octapharma, says that Vienna offers people with precisely the qualifications required to meet the technical and professional demands of the industry.

The proximity to Germany and Switzerland facilitates filling highly specialized positions. Headhunters report that employees enjoy taking on responsibilities in Austrian pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps the appeal of Mozart and apple strudel in the pharmaceutical industry is not so unimportant after all.

Further information on Austria as a suitable business location for the pharmaceutical industry is available here:

Martin Munte

President of Pharmig / Association of the Austrian Pharmaceutical Industry
+43-1-40 60 290-0

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