The growth of the Australian economy in the 21st century will depend on our ability to develop high skill, value adding industries that can compete in the global marketplace. In the medical technologies, pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies (MTP) sector we are in a unique position to improve health on a global scale while doing so, but we must act now.
The MTP sector is a major contributor to research and development both globally and within Australia. The medical technology and pharmaceuticals sector generates approximately $4.4 billion in gross economic value added (4.5% of Australia’s total manufacturing gross value added), $4.0 billion in annual exports from manufacturing and employs about 48,000 people across medtech (10,000), pharmaceuticals (22,000), and health and medical research (16,000).
We have a vibrant ecosystem of start-ups and established companies, and while Australia is an acknowledged world leader in the MTP sector and has created highly successful MTP companies such as Cochlear, CSL, Mesoblast, Nanosonics, ResMed, Bionomics and Starpharma, we have a major opportunity to increase our rates of commercialisation. The announcement of Australia’s position on the 2016 Global Innovation Index reflects this: we ranked 11th in innovation input but ranked 27th in innovation output.
Within this context, in November 2015 the Australian Government acknowledged the MTP sector’s importance to Australia by nominating it as the focus for one of six areas of strategic priority as part of its $250 million Industry Growth Centres Initiative. Ensuring we seize the opportunities created by our world leading research into MTP is the principal task of MTPConnect, an independent, not-for-profit, and industry-led information, advocacy and grant funding body.
MTPConnect sits at the nexus of the sector, fulfilling an independent strategic role to complement the work of all sector participants by acting to connect them. Our task is to seize the opportunities created by Australia’s internationally recognised research. To advise and advocate. To promote greater collaboration, alignment and engagement. To drive innovation, productivity and competition, and establish Australia as an Asia-Pacific hub for MTP companies so we can continue to be a world leader in our field.
The MTP sector has many strengths, but if it is to remain sustainable and increase its economic and health contributions to the Australian economy, there are important growth priorities that cannot be ignored. By addressing the key issue of information exchange, along with well-known barriers - including policy and regulatory impediments - that have limited the sector’s growth, MTPConnect will assist local industries to develop into global players and take our research and development output to international market.
Developed through extensive consultation with the sector, the MTPConnect Sector Competitiveness Plan outlines a 10-year vision and focuses on priorities for achieving sustainable growth and increased competitiveness.
Working with CSIRO Futures and the sector we have identified seven disruptive megatrends that will have significant effect on the Australian MTP and broader health care sector over the next 20 years. These trends are guiding our priorities and actions, and providing guidance on focal points for the sector.
The trends include personalised healthcare – providing targeted, best fit treatments for patients with better outcomes, driven by research advances such as 3D printing and medical imaging – providing us with the opportunity to develop and commercialise next generation systems.
Consumer control is another growth area, empowering patients to actively track and manage their healthcare. Australia could become a preferred region for developing and testing the next generation of medical technology, benefitting the economy.
We also have the ‘digital evolution’ of data processing and exchange. Given the incredible amount of data generated daily, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure data standardisation and security. We can gain global advantage by developing the use of de-identified health datasets and fully integrated systems.
With guidance from the sector, and through harnessing opportunities such as these trends, our vision is to retain current and planned levels of R&D, and achieve greater commercialisation success – resulting in more products reaching proof-of-concept and early stage commercialisation, increasing the number of medium to large sized companies with late stage product successes, and maximising the value of IP monetisation along the way
Australia has a pool of start-ups with an inventive and entrepreneurial mindset. It is important to not only foster this culture to continue to drive innovation, but to also provide more support to translate start-ups into successful SMEs. By doing this, a sustainable sector will be assured with jobs and capabilities developed for future national prosperity.
The successful achievement of our vision will result in considerable benefits for Australia, through both improved healthcare and economic contributions. Our estimates have indicated growth by 2025 of approximately 28,000 jobs, and an additional $3.2 billion gross value add per annum – that is $18 billion over 10 years.
Key to achieving these goals will be greater collaboration among sector participants. The MTP value chain encompasses a vibrant sector with a diverse range of participants - universities, other research organisations, small and large local and multinational companies, investors, services providers, regulators, policy makers and funders - and coordination between all of these participants will be vital in ensuring the sector’s growth and success.
Sue MacLeman is the CEO and Managing Director of MTPConnect