Shared ideas important as medtech sector grows

The Straits Times by AW CHENG WEI

Transformative technologies and innovative business models have rocked the medical technology (medtech) sector, and companies can no longer solely rely on in-house capabilities, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, said yesterday.

Instead, open innovation will become more important as stakeholders from diverse and highly specialised industries cooperate and develop new approaches to research and development, he added.

Speaking at the opening of a technology centre in Tuas, Mr Iswaran cited a Forbes survey which found that most medtech firms expect innovation to happen through partnerships.

"The medtech world has been challenged... by a variety of transformative technologies like nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, and innovative business models that reduce costs and also reach a wider consumer base," he said.

The new $10 million centre built by Accuron MedTech (AMT), the largest medical device maker in South-east Asia, provides a platform for open innovation, he said.

"As an incubator for new disruptive technologies, (the centre) will house design, digital innovation and healthcare, as well as facilities and spaces for co-creation and prototyping."

It will bring together start-ups and entrepreneurs to develop and test cutting-edge healthcare solutions, he added.

"More importantly, entrepreneurs and corporations can take advantage of this environment... to learn from the experiences of (AMT) group's management team as they prepare to commercialise their technologies globally," Mr Iswaran said.

The new technology centre, which measures 22,000 sq ft, provides incubator facilities and business services for firms AMT has invested in. Proximity to services such as finance, human resources and business development allows AMT's portfolio firms to focus on innovation, without having to necessarily incur capital or manpower expenses, an AMT spokesman said.

Medtech start-up Awak Technologies, which is developing solutions for end-stage renal disease, is the first company to use the new centre.

Another firm, Advent Access, which is also seeking to help kidney failure patients, is expected to move in by next year.

In Singapore, medtech companies produce a wide range of products, from contact lenses to diagnostics equipment, Mr Iswaran said.

Currently, the Republic has more than 240 healthcare start-ups in areas such as digital pathology, diagnostic imaging and cardiovascular implants. In 2016, the medtech manufacturing sector generated a total output of more than $11.5 billion and hired about 14,000 employees, Mr Iswaran added.