The beating heart of technology

US giant Medtronic chose to set up business in the canton of Vaud in 1996. It now employs some 750 people there and works hand in hand with various health and higher education institutions in the region.

This US medical technology giant set up its regional head-quarters and a production unit in the village of Tolochenaz, near to Lausanne, in 1996. Since then, its activities have gone from strength to strength in the canton of Vaud. Some 750 people currently work there, while the firm has 85,000 employees worldwide with a turnover of almost 30 billion US dollars in 2016–17.

In its 20 years in the canton, the company has set up collaborations with the local economic and scientific community, including technical development projects with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Yverdon Engineering School, research collaborations with the University Hospital Centre in Vaud (CHUV), the sponsoring of a chair at the EPFL, the recruiting of engineers, and of course its relationship with various suppliers of goods and services.

"Medtronic chose the canton of Vaud due to its location at the heart of Europe, as well as the political, economic and social stability of the country and its reliable infrastructures," explains spokesman Eric Gasser. "The technology pool in the Lake Geneva area – with technology suppliers and research and education centers – as well as top-quality university hospitals, a highly qualified and motivated workforce, and local authorities who are approachable are also important factors."

Humanist tradition

Furthermore, there is a real affinity between the humanist tradition in Switzerland (which is home to the head-quarters of the International Red Cross) and Medtronic’s mission as a company. As a global leader in medical technologies, solutions, and services, the firm contributes to improving the health and indeed the lives of millions of people every year. "We believe that our wide-ranging clinical, therapeutic, and financial expertise can help to meet such complex challenges as rising costs, the ageing population, and the burden of chronic illnesses that both families and health systems are currently being confronted with," said Gasser. "We cannot achieve this on our own, however, which is why we are committed to setting up innovative partnerships and developing alternative solutions to provide better results for patients."

The firm recently won the Vaud International Business Award (PVEI), the aim of which is to give recognition to companies that have made an exemplary contribution to the image and the international reputation of the canton of Vaud. "One of the main benefits of the PVEI is that it increases awareness of the importance of multinationals for the economic framework of Vaud," Gasser explains. "Medtronic is very proud to have been one of the first companies to receive this award. Our company’s mission statement includes ensuring that Medtronic maintains good citizenship relations with those it comes into contact with. This award sends out the strongest signal to our employees and management that their efforts have been recognized and that we encourage them to carry on in a similar vein."

A presence in 160 countries

Medtronic was founded in 1949 and has gone on to become one of the most important medical technology, solutions, and services companies in the world, working on behalf of doctors, hospitals, and patients in over 160 countries. Medtronic has introduced various technological innovations in medicine. A recent example that typifies the company is the Micra miniaturized pacemaker, which is the smallest in the world and is implanted directly in the heart.

The regional head-quarters at Tolochenaz coordinate the group’s commercial activities for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. Half of the 750 employees work within the Swiss Medtronic Operations (SMO) production unit which produces pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and cardiac monitors. "The SMO unit is a global centre of excellence for the production of cardiac implants," Gasser explains. "It develops the processes and production tools for all Medtronic units which produce this equipment. It currently manufactures one in every five pacemakers and one in every four defibrillators around the world."

In terms of work process, the models vary based on product type. For cardiac implants for example, the models are designed in the United States. The SMO unit then develops the processes and the production tools, but the actual products are manufactured as close as possible to their markets.

In the future, the company intends to continue to contribute to providing quality and accessible treatments for those suffering from chronic diseases throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries. "We work together with health systems in various countries to make our technologies and services accessible to all and to break down barriers to availability of treatment," Gasser says. In the EMEA region, Integrated Health Solutions (IHS), which is steered from Tolochenaz, is very much on the rise. Over 150 hospitals in the region have already signed partnerships with Medtronic to run leading projects and critical activities. Medtronic also works actively with specialists in the sector to increase awareness of the value of health and to promote dialogue around what is known as value-based health care (VBHC), with the ultimate aim being to improve patient results whilst at the same time maintaining or reducing costs.

« The Economic Development - Canton de Vaud played an important role in facilitating Medtronic’s establishment in the region. "Since then we have also appreciated the availability and the quality of the dialogue with the canton’s authorities. »