Merck KGaA has confirmed the planned closure of its Merck Serono headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, plus a site in Coinsins, but has also unveiled a 30 million euro start-up fund for employees.
The move to shutter Geneva, which will see 500 jobs go, met with considerable resistance in Switzerland and strikes were threatened. Merck held numerous discussions with employee representatives about alternatives, but notes that "after a thorough review of these proposals, the company has determined that these proposals are not viable or practicable given the need to eliminate existing duplications of functions to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the business".
The firm added that this can only be achieved through the consolidation of headquarter and European R&D activities at the Merck's base in Darmstadt, Germany. Out of the 1,250 positions currently located in Geneva, 750 will be transferred to other sites (including 130 to the canton of Vaud).
Merck added that it will maintain "a substantial and strategic presence in Switzerland". Its biotech production sites located in Aubonne and Corsier-sur-Vevey will continue, while its new unit dedicated to biosimilars, "a novel activity crucial for the future", will also be based in Vaud. Overall, Merck Serono will continue to employ close to 1,000 people in Switzerland.
As for the start-up project, Merck Serono chairman Francois Naef said that employees who proposed ideas for developing service companies targeting the biopharmaceutical industry are encouraged to apply for support from the 30 million euro fund. He added that "we have already received many proposals and several are at an advanced stage of discussion".
Merck said the programme involves “various forms of support, including capital investment, granting of intellectual property licenses and/or cession of material assets, according to the needs of the project envisaged". Employees have until September 30 to submit projects.