Healthcare in Singapore has a fascinating structure. It is not merely backed by efficient governance but is also a living example of how technology can make the lives of humans healthier. The complete setup of healthcare in Singapore consists of government-led universal healthcare system and private sector medical services, which is often aided by disruptive technology. The cost of healthcare gets distributed under various heads that include government subsidy, compulsory savings, and national healthcare insurance.
The healthcare system of Singapore has long regarded as one of the best in the world. The system is so fruitful that it has been in the top spots since 2000 when WHO (World Health Organization) ranked Singapore’s healthcare system as 6th best in the world. As of 2019, people of Singapore have the highest life expectancy in the world at 84.8 years. Interestingly, technology has played a significant role in helping Singapore achieve these numbers. The Singaporean government is one of the few early realizers of this fact, and that is why it has started supporting the SMEs and startups that are actively contributing to the MedTech sector.
MedTech in Singapore
Singapore houses more than 50 major companies from the MedTech sector. These companies indulge in a range of activities, including sales, marketing, and manufacturing of medical equipment, devices, and drugs. The foundation of a strong MedTech sector lies in Singapore’s ability to build and retain an infrastructure that allows for quick prototyping and smooth migration to commercial production. The presence of practice of standardization helps the manufacturers in achieving a high-quality output and maintaining it for the life of the product.
MedTech sector has also benefitted from the culture of adapting to the latest technology quickly. For example, EndoMaster launched the world’s first robotic-assisted tumor removing system that can use to operate on the intestine and stomach without the need for incisions. EndoMaster used a host of technologies, including robotics and automation, to achieve this feat.
But EndoMaster is just one example. The government stats suggests, the number of active companies in the niche has increased from 100 in 2014 to over 250 in 2018, including at least 120 startups. The local MedTech companies are engaged in evolving a wide array of technologies, the most common being: medical implants, surgical robots, and AI-powered medical solutions. The main focus of the startups in MedTech are in-vitro diagnostics, cardiology, and ophthalmology.
Are MedTech Start-ups finding difficulty in Getting Investors?
When the founders of AEvice Health told their mentor that they wanted to enter the healthcare niche with a MedTech product, they got a straightforward statement – “You’re mad!” It was because launching a MedTech startup requires a reasonable sum of money, and usually delivers slow ROI. Throw in a few strict regulatory approvals, and the MedTech startup recipe becomes the hardest to cook. However, it is also quite understandable since a tiny mistake in the MedTech can cause injury or death to a living being. Therefore, MedTech startups are considered a costly affair.
Nevertheless, MedTech startups have been able to find investors in government schemes and capitalists. Seeds Capital by Enterprise Singapore has co-invested approximately $90 million in more than 20 startups in the sector. Likewise, the public healthcare clusters helped 100 MedTech startups with their projects through clinical advisory and co-development.
The government is making continuous efforts to improve the overall effectiveness of the healthcare ecosystem of the country by partnering up with the businesses and finding solutions to modern problems. For example, Singapore General Hospital, along with Biobot Surgical, has developed a robotic system to conduct prostate biopsies by positioning a needle that can target and remove the tumor with high accuracy.
Several MedTech startups have also found success with private investors and investment companies. Aslan Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biotech company that is actively developing technology to fights diseases that are prevalent in Asia and America, has been able to attract an investment of $100 million in different funding rounds. Their major investors include BioVeda Capital, Cenova Ventures, MVP Capital, and KGI Venture Capital.
DocDoc, a company that empowers the patients in 8 countries through its mobile app in finding the right care at the right time, has raised a little over $27 million. Another company in the MedTech space that has found funding with private investors is Attune Technologies. The company manufactures and sells specialized solutions for the medical industry. Attune Technologies has carried out 2 rounds of funding and generated $27 million in investment.
Here are a few more exciting companies working in the MedTech space that have generated a buzz in the country:
- CXA: An evidence-based wellness portal that aims to improve worker health and reduce the healthcare cost of the corporates. The company has received a funding of US$25 million from investors like HSBC, Telkom Indonesia, MDI Ventures and Singtel.
- Docquity: A social media network is strictly limited to professional doctors. Docquity has raised $11 million through a series of investments from Itochu Corporation and Singapore Press Holding.
- Awak: It has developed a patent technology to reduce the amount of dialysate required for dialysis treatment. Accuron Technologies have invested $11.2 million in the company.
- Biofourmis: It is giving healthcare and lifestyle data and numbers a practical meaning. The company has received US$35 million from Sequoia India in Series B funding.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Asia-Pacific MedTech market expects to take over that of the European Union to emerge as the second-largest market in the world. In numbers, the size of the sector will grow to a massive US$133 billion by 2020. At such a scale, the startups involved in the industry can expect a massive influx of investment and interest from banks and other financiers.
Moreover, Singapore has everything that is required by the current as well as the next generation of MedTech companies. The country has 25 dedicated R&D centers, access to world-class medical universities, and a supportive government that wants the sector to flourish. However, to stay viable in the long run, the SMEs may have to expand in the neighboring countries as well. Since the small community of Singapore will only require a set amount of medical services, growing big on the back of the neighboring countries can always work in favor of MedTech Startups of Singapore.