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Asian Healthcare Markets: Focus on Singapore

Singapur Suntec City Fountain of Wealth
Marina Bay Sands - skyline of Singapore

Singapore is an ideal hub for small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the Asian market. The Western orientation, strong promotion of the scientific scene and effective framework conditions make it easier for SMEs in particular to launch innovative medical products. BioNTech, for example, has only recently begun to set up a production facility for its vaccine in Singapore. We present ASEAN here as an attractive market.


China is one of the largest markets for medical technology. The sheer size and a population that has a lot of catching up to do in terms of medical care make China an attractive market. However, it should not be underestimated that this market is not without its pitfalls, especially for SMEs. In addition to the fundamental legal and political framework conditions, the long approval periods in particular represent a high hurdle. The new registration of a medical product in China takes three to five years. Without endurance and the necessary financial resources, entering the Chinese market can quickly become a nightmare for smaller companies.

It is therefore worth considering for European SMEs whether other Asian countries do not offer less risky opportunities into the APAC region. Singapore with its western orientation is a particularly interesting option. The establishment of a branch (Private Limited) and its certification for the distribution of medical products can be accomplished in a few months. The certification of medical products takes less than 18 months and can also be carried out entirely in English.

Singapore is home to approximately 220 MedTech startups and SMEs, as well as regional headquarters of 50 international MedTech companies. 60% of all microarrays in distributed worldwide and 30% of all thermocyclers and mass spectrometers manufactured in Singapore are an example that Singapore is not only the seat for purely administrative offices (1). In addition, the Singaporean government massively promotes R&D projects, which is interesting for SMEs that would like to relocate part of their development activities to this region.

Singapur ist als Stadtstaat mit etwa sechs Millionen Einwohnern ein kleiner Absatzmarkt. Es ist aber Mitglied der zehn ASEAN-Staaten, die zusammen 600 Millionen Einwohner umfassen und damit größer als die EU sind. Die ASEAN-Staaten streben eine ähnliche Integration wie die EU-Staaten und Verstärkung der Harmonisierung zum Beispiel bei der Zulassung von Medizinprodukten an. In diesem Kontext bietet sich Singapur als Hub für diese Region an.

ASEAN Medizintechnik Exporte

As a city state with a population of around six million, Singapore is a small market. However, it is a member of the ten ASEAN states, which together comprise 600 million inhabitants and are thus larger than the EU. The ASEAN states are striving for a similar integration as the EU and increased harmonization, for example, in the approval of medical products.

In this context, Singapore offers itself as a hub for this region. BioNTech is an example of a German company that considers Singapore as an important location. BioNTech announced in May 2021 that it will establish a manufacturing facility for the production of its mRNA vaccine Comirnaty in Singapore and has thus selected Singapore as its first hub for the APAC region.

From our experience with SMEs on strategic considerations to enter the Asian market, China naturally stands out due to its market size. The Shanghai region alone has more inhabitants than Belgium and the Netherlands together, with a population density eight times higher. Such figures are convincing on the strategy paper. In reality, however, the regulatory, legal and linguistic hurdles in China are often underestimated and ultimately become a roadblock for many a companies. We think that opening up a market via Singapore, for example, is much less risky and resource-intensive. Therefore we recommend including the ASEAN region into strategic considerations and also keeping an eye on the feasibility of implementation. Together with our local network partners we support SMEs in entering the market in the ASEAN region.


(1) Marktstudie "Medizintechnik 2020" von Luther und Clairfield, Stuttgart, 2020

(2) GTAI: Deutsche Medizintechnik ist in der ASEAN-Region gefragt (1.9.2020)

Photo by Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash

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