€30 million fund to encourage employees to create startups
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Merck Serono confirmed Tuesday morning 19 June that it will go ahead with plans to close its Geneva European head office, “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 as announced on February 24, 2012 by Merck. Merck Serono has determined that this can only be achieved through the consolidation of headquarter activities and European R&D activities at the Group’s headquarter in Darmstadt, Germany.”
The company will keep about 1,000 employees in Switzerland, but the final plan announced Tuesday includes:
- out of the 1,250 positions currently located in Geneva, approximately 750 will be transferred to other sites (including 130 to the canton Vaud)
- around 500 will be reduced to eliminate duplications and create a leaner, more agile organization
- approximately 80 positions will be made redundant in the sites located in the canton Vaud (Aubonne, Coinsins and Corsier-sur-Vevey)
- the manufacturing operations currently based in Coinsins will be relocated to Aubonne
- biotech production sites located in Aubonne and Corsier-sur-Vevey will continue to manufacture medicines used worldwide
- a new unit dedicated to biosimilars, “a novel activity crucial for the future”, will also be based in canton Vaud
- the commercial operations based in Zug will continue to serve physicians and patients in Switzerland.
Employees to learn fate by end of July
Employees will be informed about their personal situation by the end of July 2012, says the company. “It is expected that the majority of transfers and reductions will be completed in the second half of 2012. Closure of the Geneva site is planned in mid-2013, and that of the Coinsins site in 2014. For those employees that will accept transfer offers with Merck Serono to a site outside of Switzerland, the company will be offering comprehensive and attractive relocation benefits to help them and their families settle rapidly in their new location.”
A large number of the suggestions from employees concerned the social plan, says the company. “We continue to aggressively pursue discussions with potential partners, the authorities and other companies and organizations active in the Lake Geneva area to identify as rapidly as possible job opportunities for affected employees,” says François Naef, chairman of the board of Merck Serono SA. The minimum age for early retirement eligibility has been lowered from 58 to 56 years. Employees who resign before the expected end of their contract will retain the right to part of their severance payment under certain conditions.
Employee startup proposals flowing in, to tap fund
A key part of the package is a programme to encourage employees to create startups. It was opened 24April and 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,” the company says in its statement Tuesday. “Merck Serono has committed to dedicate up to €30 million for this purpose. Several projects are currently under evaluation.”
Employees have until 30 September to submit projects. “We have already received many proposals and several are at an advanced stage of discussion,” says Naef.
The company is consolidating its head offices in one centre at the global headquarters, in Darmstadt, Germany, where the Merck Group has been located for nearly 350 years. It will also focus its R&D resources in three hubs located in Europe (Darmstadt), the USA (Boston) and Asia (Beijing)