The Future on an Historic Site

In 1984, when the company Schweizerische Wagons- und Aufzügefabrik AG in Schlieren closed down, more than 700 jobs were wiped out in a single stroke. Today, the life science companies and organizations based in the Bio-Technopark employ one-and-a-half times as many people, including highly-qualified researchers from all over the world.

On 8 August 1985, a building implosion that was then one of the largest in Switzerland created space for something new. It was the symbolic beginning of a success story that has already lasted for more than 30 years. Leo Krummenacher played a major role in this story: as early as 1984, he bought a large part of the site, before rapidly beginning to renovate and redesign the 55,000 square meters for new uses. In order to devote all of his efforts to this new and exciting task, soon after purchasing the Wagi site, the former owner of several industrial construction companies sold them and founded the company Gewerbe- und Handelszentrum Schlieren AG, which is now managed by his nephews.

Along with the media center and business establishments, the local life science industry has taken over the former industrial site. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) was the pioneer: because of an acute shortage of space on its campus, it moved some of its laboratories to Schlieren in the mid-1980s. After the ETH researchers left, the first biotech companies moved into the premises. Today, spin-offs of the universities, subsidiaries of pharmaceutical corporations, and academic research groups, institutes, and clinics have established themselves on the site.

The scientists based there need well-equipped laboratories in which they can research and develop drugs, diagnostics, biodegradable implants, or other products, technologies, and therapies. GHZ provides functional and affordable infrastructure, which is a major reason why the site has such a magnetic appeal to the life science industry. Other factors include its proximity to top-class academic research centers in the city of Zurich, the support provided by regional and local authorities, and the good transport connections and quality of life in the area.

The site is continuously being developed in order to make room for the new and expanding companies. The construction of several 11-story laboratory buildings in stages will create a campus-like environment, promoting the exchange of ideas between employees, and making it possible to open the site up to the surrounding neighborhood.

For the life science industry to continue to prosper on the site, in addition to the above-mentioned infrastructure and collaborative partners from industry and universities, it is also essential to have access to investors who are prepared to invest in risky innovation projects that will take a long time. Founded in 2003 as an nonprofit association, the Bio-Technopark Schlieren-Zürich (which was previously called Biotech Center Zurich) is intended to serve as a platform to bring together the different stakeholders in order to maximize synergies. Today, the Bio-Technopark includes more than 40 companies and many academic institutions, most of which are based on the Wagi site. Both within and beyond its own sector, and at both the national and international level, the life science park is held in high regard.