Singapore is carving out one of its suite of technology niches as a regional hub for technology-driven healthcare and the related field of biotechnology.
These sectors were very much on display at the recent two-day InnovFest Unbound conference held in late May as the anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations, a week-long festival showcasing Asian developments in what is called the media-tech sphere.
A raft of companies had products on display and increasingly, the sector is pulling in the big bucks with funding this year set to be well over $100 million.
The digital health landscape is both broad and deep, comprising a range of technologies from electronic health records, analytics and big data, digital medical devices, wearables, population health management, and consumer health engagement.
Here’s a taste of some of the healthtech companies that were touting their digital wares:
- Holmusk, a group dedicated to improve care and outcomes in chronic disease management.
- Klinify, a tool for healthcare professionals that uses digital technology “available wherever you go.
- Mydoc: a healthcare company that provides “a seamless and efficient healthcare experience for use”
- Neeuro: whose technology claims to help people lead “happier, healthier and more productively through the use of neurotechnology and gamification”
- Vault Dragon, a “full suite of electronic medical record (EMR) solution for clinics, taking the hassle out of patient record digitization”
And at the slightly more fun end of the spectrum there is Team8, whose software allows users to “create and play with your own superhero who gets recharged when you do exercises.”
The drivers for the healthtech sector are multi-pronged, and aimed at both developing and developed markets.
The big opportunity mid- to longer-term is the hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia – as well as China and South Asia – that do not have access to affordable healthcare. There is a shortage of funding for the region’s national healthcare systems and technology is key component to improving this.
The second is a concentration of top class educational institutions and hospitals with first world conditions and facilities where medical professionals and researchers can work.
There is the ageing population in the wealthier parts of Asia, notably China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore world that will continue escalate the drive into bio-tech in coming decades.
Through a number of cities – including Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul – Asia is also becoming a global destination for medical tourism, which is linked to the second and third drivers above.
Then there is biotech, the technology sector that has eternally struggled to deliver on its promises but is going through yet another boom.
According to Singaporean startup-focused website Tech In Asia, the value of biotech venture capital funding during the first quarter of 2016 skyrocketed to $174 million in the first quarter, from $150 million in Q4 2015 and a mere $9.4 million in Q1 2015.
Finally, and this can not be under estimated, Singapore is the country of choice for many large corporations Asia headquarters. In fact, as the Chinese Communist Party continues to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, this is likely to increase.
Key to many of these headquarters is that they have set up regional R&D facilities in Singapore, and many have in-house venture funds available to further drive their innovation uptake.
Still, Singapore has plenty of competition in the healthcare/biotech sector and its small population is a potential handbrake compared with the populous nations of North Asia and India.
All the more reason, then, for a closer collaboration between Australia – no slouch when it comes to medical research and innovation – to explore this sector as part of the encouragingly ever closer relationship with Singapore.
InnovationAus.com remains hopeful that at some stage in this endless election campaign, the government will show it has plans beyond Fintech and Landing Pads to include a cohesive technology/innovation policy that would certainly need to include health related technology to be credible.