The healthcare and wellness industry
in the Basque Country
The Basque Country, and Biarritz in particular, has a health/well-being image internationally, which is beneficial to brand strategies. Moreover, thanks to the development of this sector, the region has become a real skills pool. For several years now, companies and investors have understood that our region has the necessary assets to develop this sector. When brands have common targets or needs and when they are gathered in a small area, they benefit from an important asset: the ease of creating synergies for development and innovation.
The healthcare and well-being industry is well established in the Basque Country: committed cosmetics brands, manufacturers and distributors of medical equipment, private and public healthcare establishments that are among the largest employers in the Basque Country, and even digital health (or e-health) companies.
A number of brands in the French cosmetics industry have chosen the Basque Country to set up or create their companies and research and development laboratories. More than just an interesting location, the Basque Country is also a strong inspiration for the cosmetics industry, which is increasingly focused on a blue economy and on limiting its environmental impact.
This is the case for Laboratoires de Biarritz, which, when it was founded in 2010, wanted to develop sunscreens that respect the ocean and marine life. Today, Laboratoires de Biarritz is working on sun creams made from red algae found on our coasts: Gelidium sesquipedale, and exports its products all over the world. They also offer certified organic cosmetic products for the whole family, combining know-how, respect for the environment and manufacturing in France.
In the cosmetics industry, we can also mention EQ France, created in 2011 in Biarritz, which offers eco-designed cosmetic products inspired by surfing. Today, EQ is offered in 1500 points of sale worldwide. As a partner of the French Surfing Federation, the SNSM (Société Nautique de Sauvetage en Mer), the MNS (Maîtres Nageurs Sauveteurs) of Anglet and Biarritz, and the N’PY ski resorts (a group of 8 ski resorts in the Pyrenees), EQ has established itself as a major player in the cosmetics industry in our region.
More recently, we can also count on new brands created and established in the BAB (Bayonne, Anglet, Biarritz), such as Alaena Cosmétiques, a range of French cosmetics combining natural ingredients and medical expertise. A family-run business, the brand focuses on a healthy and organic composition. After 2 years of research and development in their French laboratory, Alaena Cosmétiques has developed and patented an active ingredient based on organic sprouted seeds (chia, flax, oats, wheat, green soya, buckwheat, and amaranth) which can be found in all their products.
The Basque Country is also an attractive territory for brands in the medical equipment industry. Whether manufacturers or distributors, several world-renowned brands have chosen to set up here, such as Technoflex, B. Braun or DJO Global.
As one of the largest private employers in the Basque Country with a team of 284 people, Technoflex, located in Bidart, has been designing and producing medical devices and flexible bags for the pharmaceutical and health industries for over 40 years. A European leader, the company has a turnover of around €37 million, 90% of which is exported (50% of which is to the United States) and is growing thanks to innovative patented devices: in 2018 the company received the Pharma Excellence Award in the Packaging category at the CPhI Awards in 2018, for its Dual-Mix® pouch innovation. The company wants to expand its Basque factory and “recruit 40 to 50 people within five years” (Olivier Chesnoy, for L’Usine Nouvelle).
It is in Saint-Jean-de-Luz that B. Braun, a German group and one of the largest suppliers of medical products and services in the world, has chosen to locate its industrial site specializing in the manufacture of collection bags for enterostomy, postoperative drainage and urostomy. Established in 64 countries, B. Braun is the leading employer in medical technologies in France with 7 French production sites, including one based in the Basque Country. The Saint-Jean-de-Luz site carries out research and development, production and regulatory affairs management on a global scale.
Finally, the American company DJO Global, which specializes in the manufacture and distribution of orthopedic and vascular rehabilitation and recovery products, has chosen to locate its French headquarters in Mouguerre. With a turnover of 115 million euros in 2020, the group has established itself as a major economic player in the health industry in the Basque Country.
The term digital health (or e-health) refers to all areas where information and communication technologies (ICTs) are used to improve health. Digital health is increasingly seen as a relevant solution to the challenges facing health systems: changes in medical demography, territorial inequalities in access to care, the rising prevalence of chronic diseases, and the aging of the population and the management of dependency.
The development of digital health care is governed by public action in terms of functional, technical and security conditions for the health and medico-social sectors.
Doctors (81% of them) are now convinced of the benefits of e-health on the quality of care. It is clear that digital technology is now at the heart of innovation. In the medical sector, e-health allows clinical research to evolve and improves patient care and support.
There is also talk of creating label-type evaluation systems to guide decision-makers and users in their choice of software solutions. Example: software dedicated to health homes and centers, connected objects, IOT (Internet of Things).
Companies based in the Basque Country are riding the e-health wave:
IASO DIGITAL, a company based in Bayonne, designs and develops innovative digital medical solutions on all types of media: training simulators and medical platforms for the general public. They promote synergy between their educational, medical and technological engineering to best meet the expectations of health professionals.
Sophia Genetics, the global start-up set up in the Basque Country in April 2018, is the world leader in data-based medicine. This Swiss start-up, co-founded by Jurgi Camblong (from Basque Country), helps to better diagnose a patient every 5 minutes. The company was listed in 2017 by the MIT Tech Review as one of the 50 smartest companies, and ranked among the 10 most innovative biotechs in the world by the US magazine Fast Company. The start-up had 20 employees in 2014; by the end of 2018, there were more than 200 working at its various sites. Sophia Genetics has an ambitious development policy, with substantial fundraising ($77 million in 2019, then $110 million in 2020) and aims to increase its geographical development to meet strong demand from the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare institutions.
The health industry in the Basque Country represents a major activity in the region in terms of turnover and employment. It generates an annual turnover of around 1.2 billion euros (i.e. almost 7% of the GDP of the Atlantic Pyrenees), which makes it the first one key sector of excellence in the region. The majority of this turnover is generated by health establishments (38%), and the liberal professions (25%).
According to a study carried out by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Bayonne, the health sector employs a total of 16,745 people: this represents 15.5% of jobs in the Basque Country. In terms of distribution, health establishments, social medical establishments and the liberal professions represent 85% of the jobs in the health industry (i.e. 14,227 jobs).
Among them, we can note the Bayonne Hospital which alone employs 3,500 people, or the Ramsay Santé group (Clinique Aguilera and Clinique Belharra in Bayonne), the Polyclinique Côte Basque Sud in Saint-Jean-De-Luz or the Renaudin Laboratory in Itxassou, which are among the 20 largest employers in the Basque Country (in 2021). The remaining 2,518 jobs belong to health suppliers, between industry, distribution or support services. In the Basque Country, it is estimated that 1 in 5 women work in the health sector!
Finally, it should be noted that in the Atlantic Pyrenees region, 60% of the workforce working in the health sector belongs to the public sector, and 40% to the private sector.
Source: CCI Bayonne Pays Basque
Setting up a healthcare company in the Basque Country has several clear benefits. First of all, major French and world-renowned health industry groups have been established in our region for several years, which proves the economic dynamism linked to this sector as well as the important synergies that can be generated.
Clusters have been created over the years in order to concentrate skills in the service of a single objective. This is the case of the three clinics of the Ramsay Santé group (Belharra and Aguilera clinics in Bayonne, and Jean Le Bon clinic in Dax) which have joined forces to create a new cluster: Ginkgo Biloba – Living Lab Pays Basque. Partners of Basque Invest, but also of Bihartean and ESTIA (Ecole supérieure des Technologies Industrielles Avancées), this incubator aims to help start-ups in the health industry that have been in existence for less than five years and that are linked to the current problems in the world of health to develop, both in terms of their offer and their services. The selected start-ups have access to a workspace including offices, access to healthcare units and professionals, and tailored support.
With the various companies established in the Basque Country, as well as the dedicated training courses and the significant share of employment in this industry, our region is full of talent and skills for setting up a healthcare company. In order to assist you in your location strategy, Basque Invest can help you and share its expertise on the synergies of the health industry and the specific needs of the Basque Country in this sector.