Positioning Taiwan as Asia-Pacific hub for biomedical R&D

  • Date: 2016-11-18

I. Background

In the world of science and technology, biotechnology is developing faster and has more applications than any other field. It can lead to improvements in medical and health care technology, with unlimited possibilities for enhancing human health. From an economic standpoint, biotechnology and its related industries also present numerous opportunities and vast potential. To harness this potential, the government has included biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the “five plus two” innovative industries policy as important business sectors that will help fuel the growth of Taiwan’s next-generation industries.

To facilitate development of Taiwan’s biomedical industry, the government proposed a “biomedical industrial innovation promotion program” on November 10, 2016 to serve as the nation’s new blueprint for innovative biomedical research and development (R&D). That same day, a draft amendment to the Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry (Article 3) was also passed to raise the output value and competitive capabilities of the biotechnology industry, and position Taiwan as the hub of biomedical R&D in the Asia-Pacific region.


II. Four action plans to accelerate industrial growth

Centered on the theme of “local, global and future links,” the biomedical industrial innovation promotion program includes four action plans:

A. Build a comprehensive ecosystem

To address a rapidly ageing global population, Taiwan will enhance the biomedical industry’s capacity for innovation by focusing on talent, capital, topic selection, intellectual property, laws and regulations, and resources:

1. Talent and capital: Create mechanisms for personnel exchanges, recruitment and training. Build biotech firms and pharmaceuticals into large flagship corporations by encouraging enterprises to make mutual investments, cooperating with venture capital and private equity firms, and initiating mergers and acquisitions (M&A) with high-quality international firms.

2. Topic selection and intellectual property: Establish a mechanism for selecting market-oriented research topics and managing scientific research projects, and develop prevention and treatment technologies for major illnesses. Set up regional centers for biotech intellectual property portfolios and technology transfers, and establish an integrated agency dedicated to incubating new technologies.

3. Laws and resources:

(1) Laws: In the draft amendment to the Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry, the definition of “high-risk medical devices” was expanded to encourage companies to engage in R&D for those products. An “emerging biotechnology and pharmaceutical products” category covering precision medicine, gene therapy and cell therapy was also added to encourage the industry to develop technologies and products for preventive and regenerative medicine. Proposed amendments to the Fundamental Science and Technology Act and the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act have been sent to the Legislature for deliberation, along with a bill on establishing a national drug evaluation center. A bill governing medical devices and equipment is also being drafted.

(2) Resources: Consider integrating and making health records and human biobanks available to the industry to speed up development of applications. Set up a product commercialization center to consolidate resources, incubate startups, and strengthen technical support platforms for academic research institutes.

B. Integrate innovative business clusters

Form a “biotech corridor” of innovative clusters running from north to south, including Taipei’s Nangang new drug development cluster (linking medical and regional industries); Hsinchu’s biomedical and medical equipment cluster (connecting universities, research institutes and companies); and central and southern Taiwan’s medical equipment cluster (specializing in precision machinery, medical implants, and pharmacies that meet PIC/S or Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention and Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme standards) and generic drugs cluster (developing niche drugs to upgrade traditional pharmaceutical plants).


C. Connect global market resources

Building on Taiwan’s advantages, promote M&A and strategic alliances, and employ buyout funds and syndicated loans to purchase high-potential small and medium-sized international pharmaceutical companies, medical supply companies, distributors and service providers. Use modern mosquito-borne disease control strategies as the foundation of diplomatic cooperation, and promote the development of Taiwan’s public health care and medical services in Southeast Asian countries. 


D. Promote specialized key industries

Promote niche precision medical services, foster clusters of world-class specialty clinics, and develop industries in the health and wellness sectors:


  1. Integrate the R&D capacities of relevant industries, universities, research institutes and hospitals; promote comprehensive legislation on the use of health records; and develop niche precision medical services and new medical treatment models.


  2. Develop cutting-edge medical fields and promote the mutual prosperity of medical services and peripheral industries (leisure, travel and health services). Develop a full service model based on Taiwan’s strengths in health care, promote spillover benefits from the medical wellness industry, hone Taiwan’s medical specialty areas, and foster clusters of world-class specialty clinics.


  3. Promote “smart” platforms for healthy lifestyle systems, create brand chains for medical wellness services, and integrate innovative product or health management service models based on preventive care and health care needs. Spur R&D and commercialization of health foods, pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. Replicate and disseminate such services to the global medical care and health market.


III. Conclusion

Having full confidence in Taiwan’s biotechnology industry, the government is determined to implement policies that will transform Taiwan into the hub of biomedical R&D in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal is to achieve breakthrough growth in the output value of pharmaceutical products, medical equipment, and the health and wellness industry, driving annual growth rates from 6 percent to 9 percent by the year 2025 and developing this sector into an NT-trillion-dollar industry. In addition to spurring economic growth and promoting health and well-being, these efforts will make biomedicine a paradigm for the next generation of innovative industries in Taiwan.