Singapore medical tech start-ups hungry for growth

Singapore is a regional hub for medical technology (med-tech), hosting a variety of global medical organisations with the aim to bring about the highest quality of healthcare. With steady growth throughout the years, this med-tech cluster has developed vastly in recent years including the hosting of a collection of start-ups that are currently creating products which will support and help in the advancements of patient care.

Although the medical technology field in Singapore is still budding and considerably small, innovation has been monumental in potentially allowing them to break into the global market. 

Local med-tech start-up scene

Local start-ups have been raising increasing amounts of capital, mainly from foreign investors as well as linking up with foreign companies and medical organisations in an effort to develop and bring their products to the market. This is in light of Singapore’s technologically-savvy population with 40% owning a health application or gadget and another 20% who have plans to use them in the future.

As a result of this increasing demand, there has been a growth of tech-enabled healthcare start-ups that have sprung up to offer a myriad of services and products to achieve a better quality life.

Clearbridge Biomedics

Clearbridge Biomedics is one of the longest running start-ups in the cancer diagnosis field of liquid biopsy, a non-invasive method of separating cancer cells from normal cells via a blood sample.

Clearbridge has raised SGD$9 million since 2013, led by Vertex Ventures. They have also grown from just five staff in 2009 to 30 today.

The start-up is the first Asian biotechnology company to join the CANCER-ID, a public-private international consortium that aims to establish standard protocols for, and clinical validation of, blood-based biomarkers. CANCER-ID currently has 38 partners from 14 countries, which provides a  great opportunity for Clearbridge to join a group of experts from academic medical centres as well as those in the industry who are engaged in oncology research and patient care globally. 

Endomaster

Endomaster is known to be raising one of the highest amounts in terms of profit for a medical start-up headquartered in Singapore. The upcoming development of a robotic arm for gastrointestinal surgery is highly anticipated & will likely cement its brand in the med-tech scene.

The company's robotic arm, which can be operated like a console game, is said to reduce surgery time from six hours to less than one, cut complication rates from 30% to 5%, and reduce hospital stays from nine days to less than one. In addition, the use of the Endomaster robotic arm can be learned by a surgeon in a few days.

Endomaster aims to launch its product in Europe by 2018 and has projected annual sales of S$100 million within five years of its launch. This gives Endomaster a chance to break into the global med-tech scene, to further incentivise and profit its business.

Several other start-ups based in Singapore have followed suit with Clearbridge Biomedics and Endomaster’s global outlook. This includes Cardiatrics, RingMD and PX Plate, who are making healthcare services more accessible on a global scale by bringing doctors, medical services and healthy eating right to the user's smartphone.

Singapore – globally recognised as a hub for med-tech

Singapore has long established itself as a hub for medical expertise. In addition to efficiently serving the local market with a well-organised, quality-driven healthcare ecosystem, Singapore holds a strong reputation as a destination for medical tourism.

Many are drawn by Singapore’s efficient operating environment and reliable legal framework. The city-state routinely ranks as one of the world’s most business-friendly countries. Despite being a region lacking in strong Intellectual Property (IP) protections, it is still one of the relatively few Asian countries where innovators can feel comfortable conducting original research and development (R&D).

Another advantage is the proximity to some of Asia’s most exciting growth markets. Our neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, have large populations of emerging middle-class consumers and massively underdeveloped healthcare systems with significant disease burden. Being geographically close in proximity with frontier markets like Myanmar and Cambodia also allows us to gain access to their fertile ground for med-tech innovators.

Hiring trends in the med-tech sector in Singapore

To date, Singapore’s medical technology manufacturing sector employs more than 12,000 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 230,000 employees in adjacent sectors within healthcare such as pharmaceutical, electronics and engineering.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health projects that the country will need 30,000 more healthcare professionals by 2020. With a fast growing ageing population driving this shortage, it is faced with the challenge of meeting the healthcare needs of some 610,000 Singaporeans who will be over 65 years old in 2020.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the Employment and Employability Institute will also continue to work closely with industry partners in enhancing manpower capabilities through customised training programmes and skills upgrading schemes.

Nevertheless, sustained and concerted efforts need to be made to meet the increasing demand for rigorous expertise. If your company is looking to breaking into the niche talent pool that med-tech firms and start-ups are looking for to meet the chronic talent skill gap, check out our LinkedIn page for more up to date insights on the Medical Devices & Diagnostics industry.

Sources: Asian Scientist Newsroom, EDB Singapore, Market Insider, Nikkei Asian Review, Techonomy, The Straits Times.

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