Image Source: News/Gov.sg

The region is projected to grow from US$88 billion in output in 2015 – with Singapore contributing about S$10 billion – to US$133 billion by 2020. Further growth is forecast for the next 10 years to US$190 billion, which amounts to one-third of worldwide sales and will surpass the output of the European Community.

Speaking at the Medical Manufacturing Asia and Medical Fair Asia exhibitions in 2016, Mr Iswaran had said: “The Medtech sector is different from many other sectors, in that there are high barriers to entry at many stages of its value chain. At the research and development stage, high barriers to entry arise due to long development timelines and strict regulations which are necessary to safeguard the testing of new devices, as well as the need to navigate the patents and intellectual property rights space.

“At the production stage, there are high barriers to entry arising from the need for highly specialised equipment to deliver the levels of precision required in the manufacturing process."

Image Source: Pixabay

Success stories through government initiatives

In order to help companies overcome these challenges, the Government is offering assistance through various grants and schemes.

One company which has benefited from such support is Neurostyle. Together with A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research, it has come up with a system to help stroke patients in their recovery, especially in regaining the use of their limbs. A clinical trial is currently underway at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

As recently as August, Australian start-up Anatomics, a medical technology company which creates customised products for individual patients’ needs, announced it would team up with Nanyang Technological University to research and develop new 3D printing materials and smart implants for medical devices.

Anatomics also signed a joint venture with manufacturing firm Ultra Clean Technologies Singapore to produce their 3D-printed personalised medical devices and make them commercially available to the Asian market.

Biopolis at Buona Vista.
Image Source: The Straits Times

Drive towards being a world-class research hub

To harness the region’s potential and possibilities, 30 global medical technology companies such as Biosensors, Becton Dickinson, Alcon and Hill-Rom, as well as Singaporean start-ups like HealthSTATS and Veredus Laboratories, now carry out R&D in areas such as technology and product development from Singapore.

With supporting infrastructure in Singapore dedicated to the Medtech industry, such as the Medtech Hub, Biopolis and Tuas Biomedical Park, a sophisticated ecosystem is in place for the firms and companies in the bio-cluster community to quickly set up and operate here.

Also, medical technology companies are able to access innovative ideas from partnerships with public-sector researchers and clinicians, advanced technologies provided by global industry leaders and test-bedding infrastructure in hospitals.

Putting Singapore on the Medtech map

Some of the reasons that medical technology companies come to Singapore include the support of an established electronics and precision engineering industry, availability of contract manufacturing services, reverse logistics services (which facilitate the reuse and recycling of materials thereby reducing costs) and sterilisation services, as well as excellent integrated and value-added logistics services.

The city-state is also well placed to host key business events for the sector, even as high-level delegates and participants explore setting up in Singapore for a foothold in the region.

What’s more, Singapore is home to the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association, set up to provide a unifying voice for the medical devices, equipment and in-vitro diagnostics industry in in the region. The association has already established the Asia Pacific MedTech Forum as its annual flagship event.

Back for its third instalment, last year’s Asia Pacific MedTech Forum was recently held at The Star Performing Arts Centre from 7 to 9 November 2017. Themed “Transforming Healthcare Through Innovation”, it provided insightful discussions led by global thought leaders in the healthcare and Medtech industry, such as CEOs of hospitals and medical facilities, regulators, policy makers, clinicians and academics.

“The Asia Pacific MedTech Forum has played a significant part in establishing the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association as a respected, credible industry partner,” said Fredrik Nyberg, chief executive officer of APACMed.

Singapore will also play host to Medical Fair Asia in August 2018. To be held at Marina Bay Sands, the event is touted as the most important event for the medical and healthcare industry in Southeast Asia.

The previous edition, Medical Fair Asia 2016, saw 12,000 attendees. More than 800 companies from 40 countries worldwide were represented. The event also saw 1,100 pre-scheduled meetings over a three-day period, which no doubt yielded many business deals.

Darryl Culley, president of Canadian outfit Emergency Management Inc, said: “The event has been extremely interesting and we have had some incredible meetings. The business matching service has been able to match us up with various organisations to have some discovery meetings about ways we can work together. At the same time, it has exposed us to a lot of the technology in Southeast Asia that we would not have been aware of otherwise.”

With the Medtech sector growing at its current rate, the number of delegates for this next edition looks set to increase as industry representatives and thought leaders would no doubt want to be in Singapore to tap the region’s enormous potential.