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The Second World War and Roche’s expansion to the West: a Swiss pharmaceutical company in the United Kingdom

Roche was founded in 1896 as one of the very first industrial companies solely focused on the development and production of scientifically proven pharmaceuticals. After setting up a small factory in Basel, Switzerland, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, the founder, immediately started a courageous global expansion process. The affiliate in the UK was set up in 1908. Together with Roche’s operation in Nutley, New Jersey, USA, the British branch grew in importance after the First World War, and, as political tensions developed during the 1930s, became a major strategic asset for the company. This led to the opening of a model factory at Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire in 1938.

Alexander L Bieri‘s talk makes use of the extensive collection of documents and photographs on the history of Roche’s activities in Britain, which is part of the Roche Historical Collection and Archive.


  1. Tom McClymont says:

    A tiny correction to the founder’s name: Fritz Hofmann-La Roche (two ns in Hoffmann)

    1. Liz Bryant (Admin) says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comment! I’ve corrected this page.

      Kind regards,


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