In the space of just a few decades, Singapore’s biotechnology industry has become the most important in Asia, and arguably the one with the most potential for future growth. With its exceptionally strong R&D capabilities, the city state’s biotech sector is well-placed to breed innovation and attract future-thinking biotech firms.
Indeed, Singapore is already a linchpin in global biotechnology and pharmaceutical research, being home to the Asian headquarters for many of the world’s most recognised biotechnology companies as well as a growing number of promising biotech startups. If things continue as is, the country’s biotech sector may match or exceed other major Asian rivals in producing patents and creating market-ready biotechnology products.
Here are some of the reasons Singapore’s biotechnology scene is the most exciting in Asia:
Specialised Biotechnology Services
Biotech startups with limited goals or capitalisation can easily find a wide range of biotech-oriented businesses in Singapore, including lab space for rent, contract researchers, equipment rental services, specialised storage facilities expected of a biosafety level 2 facility or higher, and much more. The easy access to such highly specialised services gives startups more flexibility while allowing them to perform more cost-effective research. These benefits have made Singapore a preferred destination for biotech startups that want to employ more agile project management methods.
Strong IP Protection
The theft of intellectual property represents a serious threat to all technology firms, particularly smaller organisations with a limited product and patent portfolio. Singapore’s economic managers have recognised this and have instituted one of the world’s best IP protection regimes, allowing biotech and other critical technology sectors to benefit from their own innovations. These laws have already encouraged biotechnology firms from all over the world to move much of their R&D efforts into Singapore.
Synergy With Local Industries
Biotechnology research is dependent on an incredibly wide variety of expensive, highly specialised inputs. Fortunately, Singapore already produces many of these critical requirements, simplifying the research supply chains needed by biotechnology firms. Such critical biotech inputs like precision instruments and speciality chemicals are already made domestically, helping bring some key costs down for locally based companies. In addition, Singapore’s highly developed finance sector and its abundance of venture capital help remove some of the friction biotechs experience when accessing funding, allowing startups to shift more of their focus to research and development.
Highly Developed Human Capital
The global biotech industry today is highly international, and Singapore’s is no different. However, thanks to decades of domestic policies that emphasise human capital development, Singapore has a high density of highly qualified domestic talents that fit well into the biotech sector. This means that biotech startups in Singapore have no problems finding the right people to fill highly technical positions.
Strong Global Trade Linkages
If there’s something that Singaporean-based biotech cannot source domestically, they can easily have it flown or shipped in, thanks to the country’s highly developed international connections and infrastructure. The country’s strategic position between the Indian and Pacific oceans also gives it easy access to the majority of the world’s population and allows it to benefit more from the competitive advantages of other nearby economies.
State Support for Biotechnology
Biomedical research is considered by the Singaporean government to be a strategic industry, which means the country is heavily invested in its success. As a result, biotechnology companies have additional access to public funding and other kinds of assistance that are not readily available to businesses in many other industries. Combined with the country’s other serious advantages, these unique incentives give biotech companies very good reasons to bet on Singapore.
Singapore is one of the most economically and politically stable countries in the world. It has no foreign debt, extremely low corruption rates, almost zero street crime, and a government with a reputation for being accountable and transparent. It also has conservative fiscal and monetary policies as well as an efficient judicial system. In addition, it is mostly shielded from natural disasters and is not under imminent threat from any foreign power. Together, these factors create the right conditions for an exceedingly stable, low-risk economy—something that is extremely beneficial for biotech organisations given their extremely long research and development pipelines.
Singapore’s high density of talent, unique services, public funding for key industries, political stability, industrial synergy, and logistics advantages give biotech startups firm foundations to not only survive, but thrive in an increasingly competitive industry. In just a few decades, these advantages have helped Singapore earn its place as the preeminent Asian biotech hub and a potential to match its rival hubs in Silicon Valley, the US East Coast, and London.
With Asian economies now growing in prosperity, Singapore is well-placed to attract forward-thinking biotech startups that understand the importance of Asia. Biotech startups with limited capitalisation but big dreams may find Singapore the ideal place to make their long-term global growth objectives a reality.