Developed manufacturing infrastructure and expertise positions Taiwan well in this sector.
By Andrew Wee, Research Analyst, Medical Devices, Healthcare, Singapore
Expanding biotechnology industry in Asia Pacific
Countries around Asia Pacific have been gradually championing the life sciences industry as the sector that will drive their economy forward. From Singapore’s Biopolis to Hong Kong’s Science Park, the respective governments have put in massive amount of investments in the Life Sciences Industry. In 2004 alone, the medical device market in Asia Pacific is valued at around US$75 Billion, including Japan’s market. On top of that, investments in Biotechnology companies topped US$10 billion across Asia Pacific. As seen from the vast size of the industry, companies from all around the world are looking to enter this market and governments across Asia Pacific is looking to tap into investments in this sector to boost economic growth and move up into high tech manufacturing.
Biotechnology took off in Asia Pacific region only recently in the early 1990s. Since then, the industry has encountered slow growth with most companies dealing in low end devices manufacturing and with a lack of exposure into the international market, the industry has remained stagnant. It regained prominence in 2001 after the slowdown in the semiconductor segments as countries around Asia Pacific seeks out new growth markets to maintain their economies. With regards to this factor, Taiwan is in a good standing position to take charge into the medical device industry. First of all, Taiwan has a highly educated workforce and it has a wealth of expertise in the area of precision manufacturing, which is a common skill utilized in the semiconductor and biotechnology sector. Moreover, the international air and shipping links forged by the global technology companies of Taiwan will also prove valuable to the medical device industry as it connects Taiwan to the world. In 2004, Taiwan manufactured medical devices worth up to NT$48.6 billion (equivalent to around US$1.45 billion), of which around 65% is exported mainly throughout Asia Pacific. This figure is up by 26.5% from 2003 and industry analysts are optimistic of future growth in this sector.