The growing trend of medical equipment production outsourcing among multinational companies (MNCs) is forecasted to trigger a 12 per cent growth in the medical technology manufacturing industry by 2015. Malaysia aims to capitalise on the mushrooming industry to increase health care's gross national income contribution to 42.2 billion ringgit (HK$103 billion) in 2020.
Medical technology manufacturing is one of the supporting sub-sectors targeted under the health care NKEA. It is also a critical business opportunity to help transform Malaysia into a hub for high-quality yet low-cost health care services.
Under Malaysian law, anything used in medical treatment that is not a pharmaceutical is considered a medical device. The three main areas under medical devices are single-use devices (SUD), clinical devices and implants and medical equipment.
Medical technology manufacturing in Malaysia shows great promise. Out of Malaysia's total medical devices manufactured last year, 82 per cent were exported and the remaining were sold in the local market. The export of medical devices is expected to reach HK$30.51 billion this year, surpassing last year's HK$28.55 billion.
As the country is one of the world's major producers of rubbers, many companies built their expertise in making and exporting rubber-based consumables.
From medical products such as gloves, Malaysia aims to move towards manufacturing core SUD such as catheters and wound-care biomaterials. Entry into manufacturing high-value products such as orthopaedic implants, in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) kits and dental surgical products is also a part of Malaysia's strategy to attract partnerships with MNCs.
"Aside from contract manufacturing, we want to see a healthy growth of locally made medical devices. We are upscaling to create an enabling environment for Malaysian entrepreneurs to revolutionise clinical devices and create their own brands," says Dr Chua Hong Teck, PEMANDU director for health care NKEA.
To become a one-stop destination for medical technology manufacturing, Malaysia also aims to become a turnkey production orchestrator of MNCs. This is an EPP targeting to establish Malaysia as a comprehensive player in component sourcing, addressing logistics concerns, packing, sterilising and providing in-house quality assurance.
One company, UWC, has shifted its business focus from electrical and electronic components to medical equipment fabrication to take Malaysia one step closer to its goal of being a turnkey production orchestrator. The company invested in the construction of a facility in Penang dedicated to manufacturing medical equipment, which will include hospital beds, trolleys, stretchers, immobilisers and prefilled humidifiers.
Another targeted EPP is medical equipment refurbishment, a high-value industry that is successful in developed markets but is underpenetrated in Asia. Malaysia is hoping to attract MNCs to establish authorised medical equipment refurbishment facilities for
computed tomography scanners, magnetic resonance and molecular imaging.
Completing the medical technology manufacturing EPPs is the development of a medical furniture and hardware cluster. Malaysia is adopting a two-pronged approach to capitalise on different market segments. For developed markets, Malaysia will focus on providing furniture for home care.
For emerging markets, the focus is to tap growing hospital infrastructure build-up.
"The combined expertise of local players and MNCs will truly help Malaysia create a world-class medical technology industry," Chua says.