The Top Five countries in Europe ranked by amount spent on pharma R&D. While some of the continent’s largest and most developed nations are represented, other smaller countries are punching above their weight. This data is taken from the 2021 edition of the EFPIA’s comprehensive annual data review of the European pharma industry.



Home to innovative global giants such as Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Merck KGaA, Germany is Europe’s top pharma R&D spender, splashing out EUR 8.477 billion in 2019 according to the latest EFPIA figures.

As the world’s leading medical biotech nation behind the US in terms of scientific research, Germany’s 660 biotech companies generated record revenue of EUR 4.9 billion in 2019 and spent almost EUR 1.8bn on R&D, according to economic development agency Germany Trade & Invest. The current flagship biotech success story is of course, BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer on its highly successful mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.



Despite boasting a population just one tenth the size of neighbour Germany, Switzerland overachieves in biomedical R&D, spending EUR 6.383 billion in 2019.

Recent big-ticket R&D investments from pharma multinationals include MSD’s expansion of its research footprint in Zurich, Merck KGaA’s EUR 250 million investment in a new Swiss biotech facility, and a number of ‘innovation parks’ across the country. The biotech landscape is evolving rapidly and Switzerland still sits at the top of the global innovation index.

To read more about Switzerland, see our recent comprehensive country reports here and here.



The United Kingdom is Europe’s third-biggest pharma R&D spender, committing EUR 5.437 billion to the field in 2019.

The country’s decision to leave the European Union has seen key institutions such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), relocate to other countries in Europe, but the UK’s R&D fundamentals remain sound. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan described the country as “one of the most important places on the planet for innovation,” MSD is still planning to launch a USD 1.3 billion research hub in London, and trade deals are being struck with the likes of Japan in an effort to ensure that Brexit does not cost the UK its place at the top table of global biomedical innovation



France spent EUR 4.451 billion on biopharma R&D in 2019, making it Europe’s fourth-biggest investor, although some commentators are warning that its contributions to global medical research are slipping.

While there has been much handwringing at French companies’ inability (thus far) to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to market, both big French firms like Sanofi and smaller outfits like Valneva may still have a role to play in the fight against the pandemic. Moreover, pioneering French mid-caps like Servier and Ipsen are also investing in R&D, identifying niches in which they can compete globally and achieve success.



Rounding out the Top Five is Belgium, which invested EUR 3.846 billion in pharma R&D in 2019.

The North European nation has attempted to establish itself as the ‘Pharma Valley of Europe’, famed for the quality and breadth of its medical research, the scale and complexity of its manufacturing infrastructure, and its multilingual, highly skilled, and industry savvy talent pool.

Belgium ranks first in Europe in terms of volume of R&D investment per inhabitant and is the second most prolific clinical trials market in Europe for volume of trials per capita. While the country makes up only 2.2 percent of the EU’s total population, it contributes to a full 12.5 percent of all pharma investments.

To read more about Belgium, see our recent comprehensive country report here.


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