Export opportunities in medical technologyHealthcare is one of the world's largest and fastest growing sectors - and healthcare technologies constitute some of the highest value commercial outcomes from national, public and private sector R&D. For UK companies, the sector has seen substantial change over the last 12 months. This has been driven by radical new government policies, which place innovation and early technology adoption at the heart of healthcare delivery in the UK.
The global drivers for change are well reported - the aging demographic, growth in long term chronic disease, enhanced patient expectations linked to rapid advances in technology, expansion of healthcare services in emerging markets, and of course, the need to contain costs at a time when global economies are under pressure. Growth in global demand is driven by rising expectations from people seeking prolonged quality of life and cures for ill health and by a rapidly developing science base, which is promising advanced diagnostics and new treatments.
The UK government signalled its commitment to ensure that the UK's Life Science sector remained one of the strongest and fastest growing in the world, with the simultaneous launch of three major strategies in December 2011: the Prime Minister's Life Science Prospectus, 'Investing in UK Health and Life Sciences'; the NHS Chief Executive's 'Innovation, Health and Wealth' strategy; and the joint Business, Innovation and Skills Department and Department of Health's 'Strategy for Life Sciences'.
A major cornerstone of the UK government's growth strategy has been international trade and investment, building on the UK's reputation for being a strong trading nation - export contributes significantly to the UK's economy, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of GDP.
The government's international agency, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), has recently restructured to maximise its impact and major attention is being given to developing partnerships with major global economies and high growth markets. An example of this strategy was emphasised by the recent launch of Healthcare UK, a joint initiative between the Department of Health, NHS Commissioning Board and UKTI, at the Arab Health Congress in Dubai. Launched by health minister Earl Howe, Healthcare UK will help international customers from both the public and private sectors access the UK's healthcare expertise and aims to boost the value of the UK's trade in healthcare products and services.
Healthcare UK will draw on an in-depth knowledge of the UK's health sector and utilise UKTI's network of professional advisers in nearly 100 countries.
Working in partnership with UKTI, Medilink UK, the membership-based health technology support organisation for businesses, clinicians and academics, has been developing links with the Gulf States for a number of years, where there has been heavy and sustained investment in health delivery and management systems. Medilink continues to reach out to potential academic, clinical and industrial collaborators from the Middle East, to partner in development opportunities.
Recognising the importance of international connectivity, Medilink has continued to build strategic relationships with key overseas organisations, the most notable being with CAMDI in China and ABIMO in Brazil, the largest health technology trade associations in these respective growth markets. In addition to distribution and agency partnerships, Medilink is championing new market entry approaches to emerging markets, focusing on partnerships such as joint ventures, technology licensing, collaborative R&D, and contract manufacturing
We hear many concerns over export and expanding into new international markets. Commonly these include difficulties identifying a suitable partner, building relationships with decision-makers, finding time/resources to devote to business overseas and protecting intellectual property.
But with more support mechanisms and programmes than ever before now in place to negate these barriers to market entry, from organisations such as UKTI and Medilink, and with opportunities in major international growth markets continuing to prove lucrative, Life Sciences and Healthcare Technology companies should now be looking to their export portfolios as a priority - not as an afterthought.
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