Updated on 24 May 2012
Investments in research in Asian countries is expected to grow in the coming years with technical capabilities developing in these markets
Growth of the biotech industry in Singapore over the last 10 years has, in a number of measures, outpaced the expansion of the industry in India and China. However, the scale is very different and physical restrictions on development and population growth will present challenges to Singapore‘s ability to compete across the full spectrum of the biomedical sciences in the future. The capacity and potential of Singapore to adapt, focus and specialize to leverage several major advantages presents a compelling story for investment and collaboration.
In the foreseeable future, the majority of capital driving global research will originate from the major pharmaceutical companies and private investing entities in Western Europe and the US. In research-based companies in Asia, research and development budgets are in direct correlation of innovative productivity and home grown IP-centric biotech productivity — as seen in the cities of Shanghai, Bangalore, Seoul and Singapore — and remains tiny in comparison to the output by organically grown clusters in San Diego or Boston in the US, the South East of England and the Medicon Valley in Scandinavia. However, there are some noteworthy hotspots of significant R&D budget in Asia, including some promising firms in China and India, that are funded by sustained revenues from generic or TCM operations. Despite this, the balance of research capital will continue to flow eastwards for a long time.
Over time, pharma firms have been gradually spending a greater proportion of their research budgets in the East and most appear to have a similar dual strategy. Physical investment in Asia, in the form of plant and people on the ground, allows drug makers to target, study and groom the massive future patient populations. The other strategy is outsourcing to Asian firms to benefit from reduced research and development costs and this is done either through direct contracting or collaborations with institutions. In 2007, over half of the estimated $109 billion global pharmaceutical R&D budget was spent in the US and a small percentage was imported by India, China and emerging markets in Asia Pacific. However, this has been growing at over 20 percent a year and is expected to grow exponentially in the future as regulatory and technical capabilities develop in these markets.