The emergence of the lab science tool industry in the Greater Zurich Area

These days, more than 50% of global market sales of lab science tools for liquid handling (automated analysis and diagnosis for liquids) are generated in the Greater Zurich Area. The first company to work in this field was founded in 1945 in Küsnacht.

  • Between 1800 and 1850: Industrialisation began in the region around Lake Zurich when the first spinning mills were established, and downstream activities such as weaving mills soon followed. Hydropower was a key factor for the location at that time. Talented tool manufacturers and specialised technical knowledge were required in order to maintain this equipment. Emerging technologies such as electrics and electronics complemented the mechanical expertise.

  • 1945: Gerhard Mettler, known for his invention of the Mettler scales, founded a precision mechanics company for the development and production of analytical laboratory scales.

  • 1980: Heinz Abplanalp founded Tecan in his cellar in Hombrechtikon. The start-up phase was accelerated by an outsourcing contract from US company Hamilton and its subsidiary in Bonaduz, Grisons. Tecan went on to successfully produce measurement, analysis and laboratory automation instruments for the lab science industry and became a respected global player in this field. Discerning and grateful customers were found in the successful and expanding pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, small laboratories also benefited from the new technologies.

  • 1993: Heinz Abplanalp left Tecan and founded Rosys Instruments. Abplanalp thus laid the foundation stone for today’s “Pipetting Valley”, as the region is often called, due to its large number of lab science tool companies.

  • 1998: Rosys Instruments was acquired by Qiagen, based in Hilden, Germany.

  • 2000 and 2001: Other start-ups such as SIAS (2000), founded by the team from Pius Fink, Clare Dench and Robert Kundert, and Xiril (2001) based themselves in Hombrechtikon and have grown strongly since then.

  • 2003: This concentration of growing and successful industry players and technologically advanced suppliers in the region had positive consequences: a number of visionaries – including local entrepreneur Peter Schleiffer (Schott Schleiffer) and Dr Michael Collasius (Managing Director Qiagen Instruments) – founded the Toolpoint for Lab Science cluster initiative together with the most important industry representatives and suppliers, and registered it as an association.
     The objectives were the establishment of a beneficial network, collaboration across company boundaries and the simplification of technological and knowledge transfer.

  • Now: Toolpoint, the organisation for the lab science tool industry, has grown strongly since its inception, along with its associated network. At the same time, its radius has extended. Nevertheless, the vast majority of members can still be reached within a good hour’s drive. Meanwhile, Toolpoint has also expanded its range of services for its members. This means that the lab science tools industry is likely to continue to create value in the region and that “Pipetting Valley” will continue to grow.