Riding the trend towards increased medical technology innovation in Asia to harness the region’s opportunities, 30 global medical technology companies including Biosensors, Becton Dickinson, Alcon and Hill-Rom—as well as local start-ups like HealthSTATS and Veredus Laboratories—now carry out R&D in areas such as technology and product development from Singapore. In 2011, Singapore’s medical technology sector contributed about S$4.3 billion in output and about 9,000 jobs.
Dedicated infrastructure such as the Medtech Hub, Biopolis and Tuas Biomedical Park provide a plug-and-play environment for the bio-cluster community. In addition, medical technology companies are able to tap on innovative ideas from partnerships with public-sector researchers and clinicians, advanced technologies provided by global industry leaders and test-bedding infrastructure in hospitals. Key factors that attract these medical technology companies to Singapore include the support of an established electronics and precision engineering industry, availability of contract manufacturing services, reverse logistics services and sterilisation services as well as excellent integrated and value-added logistics services.
GLOBAL MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY HUB
As Asia’s leading location for medical technology, Singapore is home to over 30 medical technology companies which have set up commercial-scale plants to produce medical devices for the regional and global markets. In addition, all of the top 10 medical technology companies have their regional headquarters in Singapore, from which to drive business expansion in Asia. Global leaders that have set up manufacturing, R&D and headquarter functions in Singapore include AB SCIEX, Baxter International, Becton Dickinson, BIOTRONIK, Hoya Surgical Optics, Life Technologies, Medtronic and Siemens Medical Instruments.
Part of Singapore’s burgeoning biomedical sciences sector, the medical technology industry almost tripled its manufacturing output from S$1.5 billion in the year 2000 to about S$4.3 billion in the year 2011. Over the same period, its manpower base more than doubled from about 4,000 to 9,000. By the year 2015, the medical technology sector targets to achieve S$5 billion in manufacturing output.
A variety of medical products, ranging from syringes and catheters, to research instruments and scientific analytical equipment, are manufactured in the country, including 10 per cent of the world’s contact lenses, over 70% of the world’s microarrays, and about half the world’s thermal cyclers and mass spectrometers.
Singapore is a trusted base for companies to manufacture complex and high quality instruments and medical devices for global markets. In 2012, Life Technologies announced that it had set up a Global Instrument Centre of Excellence in Singapore, which will design and manufacture including next-generation sequencing and molecular diagnostic instruments. The company will also move the manufacture of Ion Torrent's Personal Genome Machine to the Singapore centre, Life Technologies’ only internal instrument manufacturing facility outside of the United States. Medtronic, the world’s largest standalone medical devices manufacturer, also anchored its high value-added manufacturing of cardiac devices and lead in Singapore. The company opened its first pacemaker and leads manufacturing facility here in 2011, making the launch its first in-Asia site manufacturing cardiac devices and lead.
Singapore offers key engineering capabilities that enable medical technology companies to engage in product reengineering and scale up their manufacturing operations. The strong base of high-quality, ISO13485-certified suppliers in Singapore’s medical technology sector has extensive experience in working with medical technology MNCs, adhering to strict standards of IP protection and regulatory requirements stipulated by US FDA and European EMEA. Their capabilities include electronic product conception, manufacturing and supply chain management; plastic components moulding; metal forming and casting; ceramics; surface treatment; as well as cleansing, packaging and sterilisation.
To facilitate and enhance partnerships between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers, Singapore has established a number of platforms to ensure that suppliers’ capabilities evolve to meet the needs of the industry which include:
EDB’s Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) — which subsumed the Local Industries Upgrading Programme — was initiated in 2010 to develop their competencies of locally based OEMs and suppliers to meet manufacturing quality and certification requirements. The Singapore Government committed S$250 million over a five-year period to help defray part of the qualifying expenses for such partnerships.
Medical Technology Manufacturing Consortium, spearheaded by the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) — a publicly-funded research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) — is a 26-member consortium formed in 2009 to reinforce local industry capabilities and establish medical technology R&D platforms for technology and knowledge transfer by exploiting the results of R&D collaboration with the research institutes, value chain partners and MNCs. This includes optics and fluid dynamics, new materials such as composites and alloys, as well as advanced manufacturing processes comprising micro and large format machining.
Singapore aims to build up an industry-ready workforce to meet the needs of companies that require globally-oriented talent attuned to Asia’s healthcare needs. This requires developing a pool of talent that is multi-disciplinary (engineering, regulatory science, clinical) in nature and experience, and familiar with the company-specific medical device development cycle.
Key programmes to address these needs include:
EDB’s Medical Technology IDEAS (Innovate, Design, Engineer for Asia in Singapore): The programme enables multidisciplinary teams of engineers, VOC specialists and regulatory experts to gain valuable knowledge through on-the-job training in companies’ global and Singapore-based R&D facilities.
The Singapore-Stanford Biodesign Programme: EDB and A*STAR’s collaboration with Stanford University, the programme is designed to meet the region’s need for Asian medical device innovators familiar with Asia’s unique clinical and market needs.
To date, Singapore’s medical technology manufacturing sector employs more than 9,000 skilled workers in high-value and complex roles, and this number is set to grow with more than 20,000 science and engineering graduates entering the workforce from Singapore’s tertiary institutions each year. Companies can also access a strong base of more than 300,000 skilled employees in related sectors (e.g. pharmaceutical, electronics, engineering). At the same time, government agencies such as the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) continue to work closely with industry partners in enhancing manpower capabilities through customised training programmes and skills upgrading schemes.
As a microcosm of Asia, Singapore provides an ideal base for companies to develop new technologies and product innovations, test-bed new solutions and systems for the regional and global market, as well as to nurture the growth of R&D and commercialisation activities.
A total of $70 million has been committed under the Sector Specific Accelerator (SSA) Programme to encourage the formation and growth of start-ups in medical technology in Singapore. The four appointed accelerators, Clearbridge BSA, Singapore Medtech Accelerator, Zicom MedTacc and Medtech Alliance will identify and invest in high-potential medical technology start-ups to bring their ideas to the market. The accelerators will also take a hands-on approach to help these start-ups create a successful business by building up their management teams, meet regulatory requirements and connect with potential customers.
Also, another example is Bio*One Capital, a dedicated fund manager for Biomedical Sciences that belongs to EDBI, the corporate investment arm of EDB which focuses on growing Singapore’s knowledge and innovation-intensive industry sectors. Bio*One Capital invests in innovative healthcare IT, services, devices and therapeutics companies; and has played an instrumental role in growing Singapore’s biomedical sciences industry over the last 10 years. With more than 40 portfolio companies globally, Bio*One Capital continues to back innovative fast-growing companies that target significant market opportunities with a clear exit strategy.
In Singapore’s quest for encouraging the development of innovative medical technology products, there have been several successful endeavours that have since taken off. One example is the development of the world’s thinnest one-day disposable contact lens by Japanese company Menicon. Called “Magic”, the innovation was developed in Singapore, at the corporation’s first R&D and manufacturing facility outside Japan, with total investments of S$123 million. In collaboration with software giant Hewlett Packard, Singapore-based company Healthstats also produced a wireless monitoring device to facilitate the monitoring of blood pressure by patients and doctors.
To accelerate the commercialisation process, locally based companies can test-bed their ideas in collaboration with local hospitals. For example, Excelpoint with the support of KK Women's and Children's Hospital and several government agencies, developed a novel breathoptics technology to monitor breathing cycles and detect abnormal breathing patterns in newborn babies.
Singapore has also taken further steps to enhance R&D efforts by bringing in researchers to conduct extensive fieldwork, with the city now home to more than 6,000 researchers from across the globe. Yoh-Chie Lu (Executive Chairman, Biosensors) and Dr. Eitan Konstantino (President & CEO, TriReme Medical, Founder of Quattro Vascular) are amongst the scientific leaders and entrepreneurs who have moved to Singapore to head the city-state’s research institutes, consortia and laboratories, as well as build up a sustainable start-up and venture ecosystem.
Highlighting the success of the local medical technology innovation, the inaugural cohort of Singapore-Stanford Biodesign (SSB) team has won an A*STAR Biomedical Engineering Programme (BEP) Grant Call worth $500,000 for their project titled "Gaze Tracking for Visual Field Testing in Glaucoma". They will work together with the Singapore National Eye Care Centre and National University of Singapore (NUS) Computing Department to introduce a novel methodology to current practice. Additionally, the second cohort of SSB fellows has been awarded the first ever Robert Howard Next Step Award for innovations in medical technology, with the team DiaLock presenting a safer way to control bleeding in laparoscopic surgery. The team will continue working on the project, leveraging A*STAR BEP Grant funding.
Through technological innovations in the form of medical devices, NUS’s Medical Engineering Research and Commercialization Initiative (MERCI) aims to help patients by bringing practical solutions to them. MERCI is led by a team of experienced doctors, engineers and business professionals in the medical device industry. Central to the initiative is the goal of developing cost-effective, innovative and clinically trial-able solutions that would benefit the Singapore healthcare system based on a systematic and low-risk operating model.
The Singapore government remains committed to growing the medical technology industry by investing in further research. In 2010, it was announced that S$3.7 billion would be invested in biomedical sciences research for the period 2011 to 2015. This is a 12 per cent increase over the investment made in the previous 5 years, demonstrating that biomedical sciences R&D remains a priority in Singapore’s long-term strategy to boost its economic competitiveness, achieve sustained growth and establish the country as Asia’s innovation capital.
TECHNOLOGY AND PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
Companies can collaborate with scientists in Singapore’s public-sector research institutes to work on developing new medical technology innovations and applications. These institutes have established strong capabilities in various technologies across multiple disciplines such as bioimaging, cell biology, materials engineering, microelectronics and nanotechnology that can be translated into novel applications for life science instruments and medical devices.
For example, the close collaboration between scientists from the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) under A*STAR and clinicians from Tan Tock Seng Hospital has enabled the successful development of the most comprehensive and rapid H5N1 bird flu test kit available to date. With this highly advanced kit, doctors can now rapidly detect all existing strains of the H5N1 viruses in a single test with almost 100% accuracy, within a few hours. AITbiotech Pte Ltd, a regional provider of genomic services and molecular diagnostics kits, has recently signed a licence agreement with Exploit Technologies, the technology transfer arm of A*STAR, to market this H5N1 kit regionally.
An extension of its headquarters in North Carolina, USA, the BioVenture Centre in Singapore engages in technology development for areas that include cellular and in-vitro diagnostics for chronic conditions and diseases, as well as media for biologic therapies, cells and tissues. This allows BD to maximise its contributions to new ventures and customers.
KEY PLUG-AND-PLAY INFRASTRUCTURE
Singapore is committed to invest in infrastructure to help medical technology companies defray heavy capital investments and create flexibility in cost. The Medtech Hub is the first specially built facility for the medical technology industry in Singapore and is set to host an integrated ecosystem of local and international medical technology companies, such as manufacturers, suppliers and service providers, and providing shared utilities. As the medical technology industry is a highly regulated one, the Medtech Hub will provide common sterilisation, shared corridor facilities and a warehousing facility that comply with Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Distribution Practice guidelines. This will help companies reduce costs and risks in manufacturing their products to meet the regulatory requirements.
Most notably, the Biopolis at one-north is the premier research hub for Biomedical Sciences, hosting key public and private biomedical research laboratories, institutes and organisations. It anchors the development of the entire R&D value chain of life sciences, encompassing basic drug discovery, clinical development and medical technology research. By fostering a collaborative culture among scientists, technopreneurs and researchers and providing access to state-of-the-art facilities, scientific infrastructure and specialised services, the Biopolis allows companies to cut R&D costs significantly and accelerate the development timeline.
Strategically located next to the Biopolis, the Fusionopolis houses Singapore’s public sector research institutes that specialise in physical sciences and engineering disciplines. By promoting cross-disciplinary research with biomedical sciences companies and research institutes, it helps to enhance Singapore’s capabilities in medical technology innovation.
Home to half of the world’s population, Asia presents new growth opportunities with an ever-rising ageing population and burgeoning middle-class. Between now to 2050, Asia’s ageing population is expected to dramatically increase by 314 per cent — from 207 million to an eventual 857 million.
An ageing population, a prevalence of chronic diseases and the growing affluence of its middle class have collectively led to an increase in demand for high quality medical technology products. This naturally presents tremendous opportunities for global medical technologycompanies to extend their presence here in Asia and address the healthcare needs of in this region. It is forecasted that Asia’s healthcare market will grow from US$246 billion in 2009 to US$349 billion in 2012, presenting a prime market to tap into.
As global medical technology companies seek to navigate the diversity and complexities of Asia’s regulatory landscape and clinical needs, Singapore will play a key role in being Asia’s gateway. Besides having talent access in the region, companies can also rely on a stable pro-business, pro-innovation environment that will help drive both innovation and top-line growth in Asia.
For medical technology companies seeking entry to regional markets, Singapore’s pro-business stance makes it easy to commence operations within a short time frame. It takes 15 minutes to register a business online, three to six weeks to receive approval for clinical trials, and 24 to 36 months for a manufacturing facility to be operational.
To nurture a pro-innovation environment for both local medical technology companies and the growing number of international arrivals, Singapore is strong on both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ infrastructure. The former includes the nation’s protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, core capabilities in science and engineering, and its base of voice-of-customer and regulatory specialists. The latter includes the Biopolis and Fusionopolis — key purpose-built research campuses that co-locate corporate labs with public-sector research institutes to facilitate private-public partnerships and entrepreneurial networks, which go on to seed new innovation.
Singapore is committed to being the “Biopolis of Asia”, a leading international biomedical sciences cluster. The government has so far invested over S$5 billion in building up industrial, human and intellectual capital in this area, and seeks to develop the sector ever further. With the region’s healthcare needs yet to be fully met, medical technology companies can look forward to more growth opportunities to enhance their economic presence.
Singapore - Centre for Medical Devices & Equipment Manufacturing
Asia presents new growth opportunities with a growing ageing population and rising affluence. In 2050, the United Nations expects Asia’s population aged 60 to grow beyond 100 million. Asia’s growing purchasing power will fuel the demand for better quality healthcare systems and solutions.
Singapore has established its position as a trusted and competitive site for leading medical technology companies to develop and manufacture innovative products for Asia and beyond.
Today, the country manufactures S$3 billion worth of medical technology products for the global market each year. 17 of the world’s leading medical technology companies have invested in more than 20 manufacturing plants in Singapore. These leading medical technology companies include Affymetrix, Baxter, Becton Dickinson, Bio-Rad, Biosensors, CIBA Vision, Edwards Lifesciences, Fluidigm, Illumina, JMS, MDS Sciex, Perkin Elmer, Siemens Medical Instruments, Waters and West Pharma.
They develop and manufacture a wide range of medical products, such as contact lenses, scientific analytical equipment, implantables, syringes, stents, catheters and hearing aids as well as research instruments. In research tools and diagnostics instruments, Singapore is one of the leading global sites that supply more than 50% of the world’s micro-arrays and half of the global demand for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) instruments.
Singapore companies are a key enabler of this presence. This includes producing complex components for medical devices and assembling complex medical equipment. Most of these suppliers are ISO 13485 certified and they adhere to strict regulatory requirements stipulated by US FDA and European EMEA.