SINGAPORE - The medical technology sector will feature prominently in Singapore's next lap of growth, with a new industry-led coalition set up to lead the charge.
Its focus will be on in-vitro diagnostics, which involves the development of test kits to help detect and contain the spread of diseases like Covid-19.
The move builds on Singapore's existing strengths in manufacturing, as well as research and development, said Dr Loo Choon Yong, a member of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce in charge of charting the country's economic recovery.
"Healthcare manufacturing commands a premium because safety is big," he added. "You cannot be exporting healthcare products without very high exacting standards; people won't buy otherwise."
The executive chairman of Raffles Medical Group made the point when he spoke on Thursday (Nov 19) about the establishment of the industry-led alliance on medtech at a press conference. Dr Loo is one of the co-leaders of this latest alliance.
At the press conference, the task force members also shared progress that has been made by each of the seven Alliances for Action set up earlier, in June this year. These groups focus on potential growth areas, such as robotics and environmental sustainability.
The task force also unveiled six new members it had appointed recently, raising its membership to 23.
One of them, Univac Group president and chief executive Amos Leong, also co-leads the medtech alliance.
The task force is also looking at the possibility of another coalition to work on forging business partnerships in South-east Asia, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a statement on Thursday.
"We are just now starting to consolidate the possibilities within the top two or three markets," said task force co-chair Tan Chong Meng, who is PSA International's group chief executive. The aim, he added, is to be successful in a few markets before scaling up the business.
Singapore's focus on medtech builds on the country's success in rapid testing, contact tracing and isolation of Covid-19 cases during the pandemic, MTI said.
Dr Fidah Alsagoff, another task force member who is also a co-lead of the medtech alliance, noted that in-vitro diagnostics are a "high value" part of medical treatment.
Singapore has all the capabilities needed to rapidly respond in this field, from home-grown test kits to a responsive regulatory authority, he added.
Dr Loo estimated that 4,000 jobs could be created in this sector. Half of these would be professional, manager, executive and technician roles, while a quarter would be product design and similar functions, he added.
The technology can also be applied in areas such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases, said Dr Alsagoff, who is joint head of Temasek International's enterprise development group as well as head of life sciences.
"Because there is scale, it can have the potential to become a lucrative engine for growth after Covid."