Healthcare & Life Sciences - Five Areas where the UK and Asia Pacific are Collaborating to Build Back Better by Harjinder Kang, Director Healthcare, Life Sciences & Chemicals Directorate, Department for International Trade & Sam Myers, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner, APAC, DIT
Asia Pacific (APAC) is a region characterised by dynamic and diverse economies, demographics, healthcare systems and regulations. From Australia to Japan, healthcare organisations across the region have adapted quickly to the pandemic and shown a strong appetite to partner with the UK. (see Japan, South Korea & Singapore country guides).
According to Deloitte, the region with the fastest growth in healthcare expenditure is predicted to be Asia and Australasia (5.3% over the next five years). Here are five areas we tip as ripe for UK-APAC partnerships:
1. Technology Driven Healthcare
Digital Health has seen huge growth in the region. According to Bain, roughly 50% of APAC physicians and consumers would adopt digital delivery models like telemedicine and remote care in the next five years.
Middle-income markets in Southeast Asia are exploring telehealth and remote monitoring technologies and higher income markets including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are looking at sophisticated AI, drug discovery and digital therapeutics.
Governments and the private sector alike are leveraging technology to improve healthcare systems and operations, and to explore new models of care outside the traditional hospital.
As emerging technologies continue to disrupt and transform incumbent industries, UK tech is at the forefront of solving some of the biggest challenges. To help foster such win-win connections, DIT partnered with the UK’s Tech Nation to promote DIT’s First 100 digital health companies.
The wider Digital Health campaign strives to reach out to those who are not just leaders in their field but are also willing to test new markets to make an impact. Many businesses included in the campaign and beyond have proven themselves in the world’s largest single-payer universal healthcare system, the NHS.
This year, UK companies have been supported by DIT to link to key opportunities through four digital health missions/fora and UK opportunity reports for Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, with Malaysia and Japan to follow.
2. Medical Devices
Demand in the region is growing for MedTech with an anticipated 7% growth from 2018-2022. The demand is coming from developed markets, such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging markets, such as the Philippines and Indonesia.
Japan is a major importer of devices, particularly therapeutic devices, with imports accounting for approximately 49% of the total MedTech market.
In Korea, a key area for future growth is in vitro diagnostics and early diagnosis. This already accounts for around a third of the South Korean medical device market.
Indonesia is pushing the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) as part of developing a vibrant MedTech ecosystem to help solve the country’s pressing healthcare issues.
3. A Growing Region for Biotech
Japan is strong in life sciences, but other markets, such as Korea and Taiwan, have flourishing biotech and pharmaceutical sectors too, with domestic manufacturers looking for external innovation to support their global growth.
We are seeing high demand for the UK’s biotech capabilities in areas such as drug discovery (including AI) and the development of advanced therapies. Strong relationships between UK and APAC academic institutions in this area pave the way for fruitful industry partnerships. The UK can continue to benefit from this as we seek to overcome the pandemic, protecting and preparing ourselves for other future global health challenges.
4. UK Leading on Universal Healthcare Coverage
The pandemic revealed the limitations of health systems and the World Health Organisation (WHO) pledge, “that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship” has never been more important. This includes ensuring the full, maintained spectrum of essential quality across health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment to rehabilitation.
The response of countries across the APAC region to strengthen their systems brings opportunities to share knowledge, expertise, and standards from UK public and private sectors.
The UK Government’s Better Health Programme trade and development initiative has supported UK vaccine knowledge exchange in the Philippines and genomics capabilities in Thailand. We would be happy to share more information with companies to enable them to benefit from this work.
5. How the UK’s Free Trade Agreements can benefit your business
To help unlock new markets and opportunities for healthcare and wider sectors, the UK is pursuing an ambitious programme of Free Trade Agreements and trade policy dialogues across the region.
Trade deals are in place with Australia (Agreement in Principle), Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. We are making good progress with a UK-New Zealand FTA, a UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement and on accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
We also have Ministerial-level trade talks and dialogues with many other markets including Indonesia and Thailand, with elements focussing on healthcare and life sciences.
This ambitious trade policy agenda reinforces the message that the UK is open to investment and talent. APAC investors value the UK, with our record of accomplishment in scientific breakthroughs and innovation.
DIT has highlighted the UK’s dynamic life science ecosystem to investors in Japan and Korea and have plans to promote UK treatments and technologies across the whole region.
How we can help you
DIT has produced life science country guides for the following:
Additionally there is more information on GREAT.gov.uk.
If you are a UK or APAC business that wants to learn more about support, please find more information here.
 The Changing Landscape of the Medical Device Industry in APAC region, KPMG (2020).