The US has topped the list of most attractive countries for biotechnology investors in the 2020 edition of fDi's Biotechnology mini-ranking. 

This mini-ranking, which takes into account project numbers, capital investment and job creation in the biotechnology sector, saw the US precede China, the UK, Ireland and Switzerland, to top the list of most attractive countries for biotech investors.


According to data from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets, the US welcomed 189 inward FDI projects in the sector between June 2015 and May 2020. It is the highest number out of all countries analysed and greater than its closest four competitors combined: the UK (69), China (46), Germany (32) and Ireland (27). A particularly strong year for greenfield biotechnology FDI in the US was 2019, when 50 projects were recorded, the highest number since fDi Markets began recording data in 2003. 

The US was also the study’s standout performer in terms of both capital investment and job creation, securing more than $7.5bn in biotechnology investment in the five years to May 2020, and generating more than 13,000 jobs. 

Biotech bar chart

Of the US’s 189 projects logged during this period, almost a third were sales, marketing and support operations; more than a quarter were in research and development (R&D) and about a fifth of projects were in manufacturing.

Biotech pie chart

The US’ prominence in this sector is further reinforced in the city-level ranking, with four US cities making it into the top 10, more locations than any other country. The influence of the Greater Boston Area’s life sciences cluster is evident, with Boston taking second place in the ranking of global biotech cities and Cambridge and Burlington coming in at fifth and seventh place respectively. According to investor motives recorded on fDi Markets, approximately 75% of companies that gave a reason for their biotech investment in Massachusetts in the five years to May 2020 were motivated by the local life sciences cluster. When commercial-stage biotech company Servier Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of France-based Les Laboratoires Servier, established its US headquarters in Boston in May 2019, it stated: “We chose Boston so we could benefit from being in one of the world's leading hubs for bio-innovation, both to tap cutting-edge expertise, as well as to work collaboratively with like-minded companies."

Biotech chart 1

In addition, San Diego, places fourth in the overall global cities ranking and is the only west coast US city to feature in the top 10. The city attracted 16 biotech projects in the previously-stated period and is supported by southern California’s Biotech Beach area, a hotbed for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

At city-level, Shanghai is the leading destination for greenfield FDI in the biotechnology sector. The city came out on top in terms of job creation, with an estimated 1800 biotechnology jobs created there between June 2015 and May 2020, the highest out of all cities analysed. Shanghai also received a substantial level of capital investment during this time (an estimated $753.3m – more than double that of second-place Boston), which helped it secure its first-place ranking. Of the 15 biotechnology projects recorded in Shanghai between June 2015 and May 2020, more than half were research and development operations, more than one-quarter were in sales, marketing and support and one fifth were in manufacturing. Recent investors include US-based Invivoscribe, a provider of PCR-based gene rearrangement, chromosome translocation, gene mutation and cancer research, which expanded its laboratory for personalised molecular medicine in May 2019 and Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, a research-based pharmaceutical company, which expanded the capacity of its commercial manufacturing site for biologics in January of the same year.

Cambridge, Massachusetts takes the crown as the best biotech location per capita. Home to more than 100,000, the city attracted 19 biotechnology FDI projects in the previously-mentioned period, second only to neighbouring Boston (23). Recent investors include Singapore-based Esco, France-based Biomunex Pharmaceuticals, and Irvine Scientific, a subsidiary of Japan’s Fujifilm. The city’s Kendall Square neighbourhood, which has been referred to as the “most innovative square mile on the planet” is a hub for numerous biotech and life sciences companies as well as various research institutions. The city is also home to Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Lesley University, and Hult International Business School, ensuring a highly-skilled and dynamic workforce.

Biotech chart 2


To compile the list of locations for this study, fDi Intelligence, a data division of the Financial Times, looked at the FDI data between June 2015 and May 2020 on fDi Markets. Locations were ranked on their record of biotechnology investment considering project numbers, capital investment and job creation. The Per Capita ranking considered inward FDI in the sector per 100,000 people.

This article first appeared in the August - September edition of fDi Magazine. View a digital edition of the magazine here.