The biotech industry is expected to continue its massive growth in the next 10 years, as worldwide demand pushes for newer technologies and solutions to detect, manage, and resolve various types of medical conditions (McKinsey, 2021). All the same, even before the worldwide pandemic affected every sector of society and pushed biomedical research into the forefront of global consciousness, think tanks and researchers were already noting an increased interest in the fields of biotechnology, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals and how these can improve public health and wellness.
As more biotech startups emerge, entrepreneurs may wonder which country offers the most cost-effective business environment relative to the quality of the available facilities and services. Singapore is quickly emerging as a prime candidate, especially for entrepreneurs from Asia. With its strong manufacturing capabilities and thriving research ecosystem, many pharmaceutical and biotech firms have chosen the country as their home base to serve clients from around the world.
This holds particularly true for startups, who have the option of setting up shop in innovative spaces like a shared biosafety level 2 laboratory to cut down on costs while still leveraging the advantages of a world-class facility. The country also boasts a culture that is incredibly supportive of substantive STEM-related business activities, which means that companies can receive the support they need and build the right networks.
This article explores three reasons you should launch your biotech startup in Singapore.
1. Singapore’s Government Heavily Supports Biotech Research
Singapore is home to the regional offices of some of the world’s more trusted pharmaceutical firms, including GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and MSD. These companies have selected Singapore not only for its proximity to Asia’s most important markets but also because the country has taken every effort to support biomedical research in the last decade.
The Singaporean government holds a firm supportive stance on medical, biotech, and pharmaceutical research, considering them as among the keystone industries that are most important to the city-state’s future. Singapore continues to create multiple initiatives to boost these sectors, working with private and public institutions to achieve this goal. For example, the country’s first publicly funded anti-cancer drug was made in collaboration with the Duke-NUS Medical School.
The country also heavily invests in other types of pharmaceutical research and provides annual support for the A*STAR’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) and the Drug Discovery and Development Unit (D3). These facilities attempt to drive more research on newer, experimental solutions for various medical concerns.
This is great if you’re a biotech startup researching a certain type of medical advancement. Before relocating to Singapore, you can also look for various government sponsorships, programs, incentives, and schemes to further fund your research.
2. The Country Has World-Class Manufacturing Capabilities
As part of its focus to support biotech research, the country has created several world-class manufacturing facilities to host global pharmaceutical companies of any size. Industry leaders, such as Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi, and Amgen, all use Singaporean manufacturing plants for their various medicines.
Not only does Singapore pay particular attention to building best-in-class plants, but it also develops and supports new training programs so that pharmaceutical companies can maximise their research in their Singaporean labs. On the official website of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), it was noted that in the last three decades, there have been no complaints raised by third-party regulators, such as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This implies that all facilities in the country are reliable and functional. This adds a layer of security and confidence for biotech startups who want the reassurance that their research can proceed without technological challenges.
3. Singapore Offers Innovative Solutions for Biotech Startups
One of the biggest advantages of setting up a biotech startup in Singapore is the availability of international co-innovation programmes (CPOs), many of which are overseen by Enterprise Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. These programmes enable Singapore-based firms to enter into cross-enterprise and cross-border research projects to develop and test new products and solutions, whether it involves new medicines, novel medical devices, or some other type of therapeutic intervention. These collaborations present your enterprise with opportunities to expand its R&D capabilities and to test bed new products, accelerating your time to market and allowing you to jumpstart production much more quickly than it would normally take your team if you were to do things on your own.
Another innovative space in which the benefits of collaboration is quite apparent is the co-working laboratory, which is becoming a popular alternative for starting or cash-strapped enterprises. Here, members of early-stage startups like yours have the advantage of being immersed in a welcoming community of founders, scientists, and other workers within the biotech space, allowing you to learn from these people while also letting you develop the confidence to find your own place within this dynamic sector.
On top of providing you with a supportive community, co-working laboratories are game changing by way of their ability to help firms like yours take advantage of world class laboratory amenities and equipment at a fraction of the cost it would take you to set up your own lab. In Singapore, you even have the option of renting a shared biosafety level 2 laboratory, which offers numerous tools and equipment for various types of lab work and experiments, as well as ample storage and waste disposal facilities to mitigate your team’s exposure to chemical and biohazardous agents.
To ensure that you receive the best support for your specific research, it’s highly recommended that you visit several laboratories before deciding on anything. Assess your core requirements and determine if a lab offers them. You should also consider any lock-in contracts or provisions that require you to stay in that lab for a time period.
Nevertheless, you will find Singapore to be well-suited for any type of biomedical research. Not only is its government extremely supportive, but you will also gain access to a thriving and innovative ecosystem that places high value on the sciences. So important is the health and biomedical sciences domain for the city-state that, in 2016, the Singaporean government has committed SGD 4 billion in these sectors to drive R&D and commercialisation activities.
The excellent government support, welcoming culture, and innovative solutions offered by Singapore have made it a leading biotech hub in Asia. As it continues to invest in various biomedical research and build best-in-class facilities, the city-state will remain an attractive option for startups looking for a place to expand their research capabilities.