Barbados and Switzerland can build out life sciences and exports together

Barbados sees Switzerland as a critical partner in facilitating this country’s drive to be the life sciences and biotech island and boosting exports. 

Chief Executive Officer of Export Barbados (BIDC) Mark Hill, noting that Switzerland is a powerhouse in the life sciences sector, expressed confidence that as Barbados expands its work in that area, it can garner valuable insight and expertise from the European country. 

Hill spoke to the potential collaboration during a virtual press conference hosted recently by the Geneva Press Club. The event sought to engage the Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva and Ambassador to Switzerland, His Excellency Chad Blackman, and the leadership of Export Barbados, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., and Invest Barbados.

“Currently, we are looking at taking our industrial estates and investing a lot more in sustainable and environmentally friendly manufacturing practices in the life sciences and bio trade. As a partner, Switzerland can bring a lot of value to the table. Currently, Switzerland’s science exports were valued at around 108 billion US dollars in 2020, which accounted for 44 percent of your total exports. So Switzerland is a key partner in positioning Barbados for the type of future that we’re seeking to develop as a small island developing state, with your life sciences program,” the Export Barbados CEO stated.

Hill anticipates a reciprocal relationship developing between Barbados and Switzerland, such that there can be exchange programs between manufacturers from both countries to build out the desired life sciences ecosystem. He also referred to plans to develop a 23-acre life science park at Newton, Christ Church, which they hope to populate with leading scientists and manufacturers from across the world.

On the topic of exports, Hill contended that the prospects in this area are high, noting that while the COVID-19 pandemic caused tourism to drop by 80 percent, exports proved to be very sustainable, falling only by eight percent. He said the goal is to build exports as a strong resilience pillar in the Barbados economy. 

“To that extent, we asked three core questions – Is it real? Can it win? And is it worth it? So we know that the life sciences can win, we know that the life sciences are real, and we know that the life sciences are also worth it”.

Hill also revealed limited employment opportunities exist in Barbados for the 1500 persons graduating annually from the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, qualified in the life sciences. He suggested Switzerland can readily tap into this skilled and affordable labor force. 

Earlier in his remarks, Ambassador Blackman revealed that Barbados was seeking, in general, to deepen relations with Switzerland. Blackman, whose office is now based in Geneva, Switzerland, said Barbados is seeking to solidify mutual interests in Switzerland in respect to inward and outward trade, international business, tourism, sports, and sustainable development.

He disclosed that when he presented his credential to the President of the Swiss Confederation, His Excellency Guy Parmelin, they discussed enhancing travel between the two countries. Ambassador Blackman suggested that direct flights from Geneva and Zurich to Barbados would facilitate the pursuit of mutually beneficial opportunities in trade, business, and tourism.