Singapore's medtech sector to get two growth boosts

Tie-ups with overseas businesses will lead to tech transfer and create jobs


MEDICAL technology (medtech) in Singapore - a sector which industry watchers have said is one to watch this year - got a fillip from two announcements on Wednesday.

In both cases, the leg-up given to overseas medtech companies to open up for them access to the Asian market will lead to technology transfer and job-creation opportunities for the industry here.

In the first development, EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board, announced that it has invested in Massachusetts-based life science tools company Rapid Micro Biosystems (RMB) in a new, expanded Series C round.

EDBI's investment, the amount of which was not disclosed, follows a US$25 million Series C funding round raised by RMB in April; that round had drawn participation from new investors Hepalink USA and Richard K Mellon & Sons, along with existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Longitude Capital, Quaker Partners, TPG Biotech and TVM Capital.

RMB, founded in 2006, develops technology that enables the early, automated detection of microbial contamination in the quality-control testing of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and personal-care products.

EDBI chief executive Chu Swee Yeok said: "RMB will enable Singapore's pharmaceutical and medical technology plants to capture substantial and sustainable productivity gains. We are excited about assisting the company to gain access to the fast-growing Asian market from Singapore through our regional network."

In the last 20 years, EDBI has invested in more than 60 global emerging firms in the biomedical sciences, information and communication, and in smart, sustainable technologies.

In the other development, homegrown accelerator JFDI has partnered Germany's Medical Innovations Incubator (MII) to "power" pioneering medtech startup bootcamps and an accelerator in Germany.

MII staff will deliver the "front end" activities, teaching techniques such as design thinking and lean startup methodology; JFDI will provide the "back end" systems - the toolkit, systems and processes that make accelerators work - for managing recruitment, evaluation and fundraising.

JFDI will also provide a direct link to Singapore's Smart Nation innovation ecosystem and commercial opportunities for MII's health-care products and services targeted at the rising middle class across Asia, said JFDI chief executive Hugh Mason. He said: "There are now thousands of entrepreneur-support programmes being set up worldwide. But scaling up an innovation factory that creates products fit for a demanding, regulated environment like medtech - where lives are at stake - needs consistent processes. This is the first in a series of international collaborations that we hope will lead us to the replicating of the success of Singapore's famous 'Kumon Maths' programme. Based on our success in our home market, we want to offer the world a system for schooling startups that works across cultures, verticals and locations, time after time."

Mark Hon, acting chairman of the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, described JFDI as a Singapore startup that has done well in growing and scaling up overseas; he said the JFDI-MII collaboration will present medtech-related commercial and job creation opportunities for Singapore.

Last September, Spring Singapore appointed Zicom MedTacc and Med Tech Alliance as accelerators to its S$70 million Sector-Specific Accelerator Programme to nurture medtech startups here.