$18 billion health kick for Australian economy

By Rob Grenfell , Keith McLean

4 April 2017

Scientist working at the laboratory

The Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals (MTP) Roadmap is unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia.

By 2025 the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector will have grown to $3 trillion, which is nearly twice the size of Australia’s GDP. We have released a roadmap which charts a path for Australia to grab a piece of the pie, adding $18 billion to the economy and creating 28,000 new jobs along the way.

To understand how we get there, we need to look at the global trends that are driving growth in the sector.

People are living longer than ever before, which brings a whole host of challenges in managing chronic disease.

Advances in science and technology are driving precise medical solutions that are tuned to an individual’s needs – think 3D printed body parts.

The popularity of wearable devices like FitBits have demonstrated the enormous public appetite for information that puts the consumer in control, empowering patients to become more proactive in managing their healthcare. Recent pandemics such as Zika and Ebola highlight the global threat posed by disease. Combined with increased antimicrobial resistance, this is creating the need for rapid technology responses.

The rising middle class in developing countries is creating increased demand for MTP solutions. With a strong research base Australia has the comparative advantage to become a global player in the MTP sector.

In collaboration with industry, government and researchers, we developed the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Roadmap, which shows how Australia can rise to the challenge of creating an industry that is equipped to:

MTPConnect, the Industry Innovation Growth Centre for the sector, has estimated that implementing the roadmap will create an additional 28,000 jobs and add $18 billion in Australia by 2025.

The key to success lies in Australia focusing on four main areas.

Smart devices, implants and bionics

An ageing population and rising middle class will drive demand for the development of smart and connected medical technologies such as personalised implants, bionics and monitoring devices. In Australia alone there is a huge potential market for these devices- more than one million Australians have some form of physical disability that means they experience profound or severe core activity limitation. Over 357,000 are blind or have low vision; 30,000 have total hearing loss; 20,000 are amputees; and approximately 42,000 hip replacements and 53,000 knee replacements took place in 2013-14. But the Australian market is small- the real opportunity is global.

Increasing Australia’s focus on smart devices, implants and bionics will create skilled jobs and the development of agile medtech companies. It’s already happening in certain pockets. For example, Melbourne-based company Anatomics has partnered with us and others to quietly develop one of the world’s most advanced capabilities in prosthetic body parts (and saved a few lives along the way).

Accelerated pharmaceutical development

Chronic disease and global pandemics are driving the need for drug development. Although the clinical trials industry currently adds about $1 billion to our economy every year, there is a huge opportunity for Australia to establish itself as an international hub for drug development.

This will grow commercial opportunities, foreign investment and improve local access to cutting edge medicines.

Manufacturing high-value pharmaceuticals

The market for complex pharma products is projected to be worth more than $300 billion by 2020.

Australia can leverage our advantages to develop high-value, niche pharmaceuticals that create export revenue, with a particular focus on emerging Asian markets. The expansion of Australian healthcare company Medical Developments International (MDI) is a success story in this space, with its ‘green whistle’ pain killer moving into global markets.

Digital evolution

Data has been described as the new crude oil, in that its (large) value can only be realised through refinement. In the past decade there has been an explosion in the variety and volume of health data collected, however the effectiveness of its use has been patchy at best.

Building a home grown Australian sector in this area has enormous potential to lower national healthcare costs. Genomic data, for example, enables analysis of a patient’s predisposition to certain conditions, allowing doctors to prescribe tailored treatments.

Driven by the need for efficiency in healthcare, developing novel ways of extracting value from health data will establish strong growth in the MTP sector.

These are the four areas the Australian MTP sector needs to focus on to be globally competitive, but  we also need to create an environment that allows the translation of inventive ideas into innovative solutions. Domestically we need a more nimble regulatory system, while internationally we need to employ staff with the regulatory know-how to navigate those markets.

Bringing researchers into business will improve knowledge transfer while sending more industry professionals the other way will ensure our next generation have the right skills to succeed.

We can grow Australia’s MTP sector as a future pillar of the economy. It will take nothing short of deep collaboration to get us there.

You can find out more about the MTP Roadmap here.