• Pharmaceutical company KRKA: R&D department


Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals


Number of companies: 901
Number of employees: 32,039
Revenues (in €): 6.3 billion
Key export markets: Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia,  Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, USA … 

Source: AJPES, 2020

Key products:

  • Basic chemicals
  • Pesticides and other agrochemical products
  • Coatings, paints, varnishes and similar coating, printing ink and mastics
  • Basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations
  • Soap and detergents, cleaning and polishing preparations, perfumes and toilet preparations 
  • Other chemical products
  • Man-made fibres
  • Engineered rubber and plastic products
  • Tyres and air-tubes for vehicles

Quality workforce

Slovenia’s manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and chemical products are the country’s most successful companies thanks to a long tradition of the chemical industry in this part of Europe dating back to the first half of the 19th century when soap, paints, spirit and various chemicals were produced. The first industrial chemical plants were established in the middle of the 19th century: KIK Kamnik, Cinkarna Celje and TKI Hrastnik. The railway connection with Vienna and the port of Trieste, the coal mines to produce energy, chemical commodities and a pool of skilled workforce gave impetus to the Slovenian chemical industry. It is the human capital that led eventually to the successful evolution of the industry from the manufacturing of basic chemicals to the manufacturing of finished consumer goods: pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, pesticides, and rubber and plastic products.

Currently, knowledge and skills of about 32,000 employees in some 900 companies make the Slovenia’s manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and chemical products highly successful in key export markets while 4,000 students in secondary schools for chemistry, pharmacy, biology and veterinary medicine guarantee highly qualified entry-level employees. The figures illustrating enrolment in postsecondary education are equally high: some 5,200 students are enrolled in undergraduate courses in chemical technology, biology, pharmacy and veterinary medicine. 

The story does not end with a diploma and a good grasp of foreign languages. Upskilling the existing workforce and attracting new entrants willing to acquire new work-based qualification for the chemicals sector has built a bridge between universities and industry, and helped to develop the new work-based qualification for chemicals sector. The success of the industry leaders is partly built on existing good practice in delivering fit for purpose education, training and development for those already working in the sector as a number of Slovenian companies has shown.

Estimated gross annual labour costs in chemicals & pharmaceuticals industry for 2019

(Total cost per employee in €) 

Source: www.plača.si & own calculations, 2019

Quality link to Regional Markets

Slovenia's export dependent economy means a recovery pegged to the developments in its major trade partners – the destiny shared by the countries intersected by transport and trade routes. The local chemical and pharmaceutical industry still accounts for a hefty portion of the country's export mix with nearly 77% of sales earned in foreign markets. Pharmaceuticals are the backbone of the export mix of the chemicals industry, tyres and inner tubes for vehicles come second followed by plastics. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals consumer products as well as tires from Slovenia are very popular on the markets of the new EU Member States, central and south-eastern Europe and CIS countries. 

In terms of international activity, performance and image-building, Krka and Lek are the leading manufacturers of generic drugs in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the engine of the sector’s growth. Krka is the largest exporter in Slovenia and its most important corporate tax payer. Lek, is an important member of the Sandoz family, a leading world generics company. It is a global development centre for products and technologies; a global manufacturing centre for active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines; a competence centre for the development of vertically integrated products; a Sandoz competence centre in the field of development and manufacturing of bio similar products; and, a supply centre for the markets of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), South East Europe (SEE) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Both companies have a foothold in many key markets and have plants in many foreign countries. Krka has plants in Croatia, Germany, Poland and Russia, while Lek operates has companies and representative offices in over 20 countries worldwide. Chemical companies are expanding successfully into the emerging markets of CEE and SEE countries. Lek, for example, manufactures its products in four different locations in Slovenia, as well as in Poland and Romania. Krka, in addition to its large plants at home, also operates plants in Croatia, Germany, Poland and Russia. 

Thanks to its strategic position and strong economic and personal links with the companies in the region, Slovenia is a springboard for international companies seeking a foothold in the emerging markets in the region. The number of companies setting up their regional hubs in Slovenia is rising attracted by the expertise of local managers, sales force and field engineers and their in-depth knowledge of the regional markets. They speak the language, they are familiar with legislation, they know their way around, and what’s most important there are no cross-cultural barriers for them.

Productivity in Industry, 2018

Related GDP (PPP) per person employed in industry (in €)

Source: IMD - World Competitiveness Yearbook, 2019

Quality infrastructure

Foreign investors will compete in the global market more efficiently if they locate in Slovenia and benefit from its excellent physical and soft infrastructure. Its road network and rail services, three international airports and a sea port shorten travel distances and make Slovenia one of the most attractive investment location in the region.

Slovenia has a long industrial tradition in processing basic chemicals in a variety of products. This line of business demands complex processing technologies and substantial investment to keep abreast of competitors. Flexibility and ability to provide customers with the right product on short notice are the qualities that make the difference. Renowned domestic and foreign companies in the chemicals sector specialise in the production of paints, varnishes, coatings, synthetic fibres and other chemical products. Household names are Helios, Color, Jub, Cinkarna, Julon (Gruppo Bonazzi) and Henkel, Sava Tires, wholly owned by the Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe, is the only tyre manufacturer in Slovenia and it makes tyres for Sava and for other Goodyear mid and premium brands highly appreciated by motorists in central and south-eastern Europe, as well as further east.

Considerable spending on medicines, high standard of healthcare and general health awareness will continue to drive demand for innovative treatments making Slovenia attractive as a destination for pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical cost-containment measures will hardly affect Slovenian pharmaceutical spending expected to rise even though there will be less funding available for public sector expenditure on healthcare. Lek (Sandoz Group) and Krka remain the top performers of the pharmaceuticals industry. With the combined more than 8,000-strong staff they are the leading producers of generic drugs in the region and ready to cope with further cost-containment measures in the healthcare sector if the economic recovery proves more difficult and protracted than originally anticipated.

Leading domestic and foreign-owned companies

  • Belimed / Belimed (Washing-disinfecting machines, sterilization equipment for medical, pharmaceutical and laboratory field)
  • Belinka - Belles / Remho Beteiligungs (Wood protection and decoration products)
  • Belinka Perkemija / Solvay (Peroxide compounds, wood protection and decoration products)
  • Bia separations Bia separations (New generation of materials for cleaning and separation of proteins and viruses for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies)
  • Cinkarna Celje (Titanium dioxide, coatings PTFE)
  • Donit Tesnit / Disseurope (Industrial gaskets and sealing products)
  • Ecolab / Ecolab (Cleaning and polishing preparations, soap and detergents)
  • Frutarom Etol / Frutarom (Flavourings and essential oils)
  • Geberit proizvodnjaGeberit International (Sanitary and piping systems)
  • Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires / Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe (Tyres and inner tubes)
  • Helios TBLUS / Remho Beteiligungs (Covering paints, lacquers and similar coatings and putties)
  • Henkel Maribor Henkel (Cosmetics, detergents, disinfectants)
  • Istrabenz plini / Societa’ Italiana acetylene e derivati (Industrial gases)
  • Jub (Paints, (acrylic) adhesives)
  • Julon / Aquafil (Synthetic fibres & polymers, carpet yarn)
  • Kolpa (Hig-end bathroom equipment
  • Krka (Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics)
  • Lek / Novartis Pharma (Sandoz) (Pharmaceutical preparations, cosmetics)
  • Melamin (Synthetic rubber and chemical products)
  • Messer Slovenija / Messer Belgium (Manufacture of industrial gases)
  • Mitol (Adhesive producer with own production of emulsions)
  • Optotek / Canon Ophthalmic Technologies (Optical and laser solutions and Technologies for applications in medicine and life environment)
  • Polycom (Integrated polymer and mould solutions)
  • Savatech / Trelleborg (Industrial rubber products and tyres)
  • Sibo G (Technicalo parts for pharmaceutical, medicine and E&E industry)
  • TKl Hrastnik (Sodium hydroxide, hypochlorite for cleaning agents, phosphates)
  • TKK / Soudal holding (Paste, additives for cements, mortars and concrete etc.)
  • Unichem (Products for gardening and protection of the environment from insects, mice and rats)
  • Veyance technologies Europe / Veyance technologies Luxemburg (Rubber products) 

Universities, Research Institutions and Associations