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. These accelerators 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 EDB Investment, the corporate investment arm of EDB which focuses on growing Singapore’s knowledge and innovation-intensive industry sectors. EDBI 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 25 years. With more than 100 BMS investments made globally, EDBI 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 breath optics 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 2015, it was announced that S$4 billion would be invested in biomedical sciences research for the period 2015 to 2020, 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.