Bayer is thriving in Finland
It’s ten years since Bayer acquired an R&D and manufacturing unit in Turku, Finland. Becoming the owner of the women’s health business was the result of a major consolidation of the pharmaceutical sector, and perhaps a mere detail to Bayer at the time. But times change. With a now committed owner and a truly global marketing and sales organization, demand for the Mirena family of intra-uterine devices grew rapidly. Sales are up three-fold under Bayer’s ownership. By the end of 2015, Mirena sales reached the one billion euro run-rate. This milestone earns Turku’s Mirena “blockbuster” status – and, in that respect, a notable first for Finland.
Bayer has benefits from a Nordic HQ in Finland
Bayer has been operating directly in Finland since the 1960s, but the acquisition of the Turku site resulted in most of the company’s Nordic assets suddenly being in Finland. Pragmatism dictated the decision to locate the Nordic HQ in Finland. This was a first for Finland, as other multinational pharma companies had chosen Sweden or Denmark.
A decade is a long time in business and Bayer has since made significant acquisitions in the other Nordic countries. But the Bayer HQ is still in Finland. And Bayer is more firmly rooted here than ever.
Oliver Rittgen, CEO at Bayer Nordic explains why: “We were impressed by the high level of talent we found in Finland. A pharmaceutical business thrives on having highly educated and responsible individuals who are capable of working in multinational teams. It’s not that other countries don’t have some of these resources, but with only one large domestic employer in the pharma sector, there was a lot of talent for Bayer to choose from. We offer a win-win situation as many of our employees want to work at the heart of a multinational company but still live in Finland,” Rittgen adds.
Another key reason Bayer likes Finland is the local ecosystem – the interplay between the various organizations in the Finnish healthcare system. Each country is different, often markedly so. Rittgen has been managing Bayer Nordic now for over five years. He says that he and the other Bayer managers needed to reach out to the key players in Finland first, but once they had made the effort, he says that doors to the decision-makers opened equally wide for Bayer as for local companies.
In the pharma sector, Finland actively seeks investment
“Finns say they are open to foreign investment and they really mean it,” Rittgen says. “And things can happen really quickly in Finland,” he adds. As an example, Rittgen points to the suggestion of a strategic review comparing the research priorities of pharmaceutical companies and those of academia in Finland. Normally, such a review might be expected to take a year or two, but in Finland one organization, SITRA, took responsibility for the review and ran with it. The process took less than six months from an idea to final recommendations. “Unheard of!” Rittgen admires.
Welcome to Finland says Bayer
So, does Bayer want to selfishly remain the only pharma giant with a regional headquarters in Finland? “Not at all, there is plenty of room for more players”, Rittgen says. “And the pharma sector needs to maintain its creativity. More players can only add to the talent diversity in Finland. In the long run, that will benefit all of us – patients, society and the healthcare industry,” Rittgen adds.
Bayer has done the heavy lifting for the next multinational that wants to establish a headquarters in Finland. Oliver Rittgen has a roadmap and he is happy to share his experiences.