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Hong Kong innovators

Germany’s medical tech tie-up with Science Park should make rival equipment makers worry

German medical technology companies have their sights set on leveraging Hong Kong’s expertise in manufacturing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 5:29pm

The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp has teamed up with a German medical technology cluster to help European companies tap the city’s manufacturing expertise and gain access for their products to the mainland Chinese market.

The agreement signed on Thursday between the Medical Valley European Metropolitan Region Nuremberg (EMN), Hong Kong Biotechnology Organisation (HKBIO) and the Hong Kong Medical and Healthcare Device Industries Association (HKMHDIA) involves a budget of€3 million (HK$26.5 million) from the German government to promote cooperation between medical technology companies in both locations.

“We have an existing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) infrastructure in Germany but new technology is coming up. The question for us is whether the market size is big enough to develop the product in Germany? I think not,” said Matthias Hiegl, member of the managing board of Medical Valley EMN.

Hiegl said it would benefit Germany’s small and medium-sized medical technology companies to work with Hong Kong firms in both product development and marketing, which have longstanding ties with manufacturers and distribution companies on the mainland.

The initiative stands to benefit from China’s 13th Five Year Plan, which targets the development of robots for surgery, medical imaging technology, wearable devices and equipment for traditional Chinese medicine.

Based outside Nuremberg, Medical Valley EMN is a non-governmental organisation that supports innovation in medical technology and devices among small and medium-sized enterprises.

Hiegl said Hong Kong was chosen as an Asian base on the strength of its intellectual property protection, wide use of English, and its network of universities and modern hospitals.

Research and development spending by German biotech companies last year exceeded 1 billion, of which around 550 million was invested in the country’s biotech industry, according to publisher and research firm BIOCOM.

“Innovation and technology is no longer home-grown, it’s now often a partnership,” said Andrew Young, the chief commercial officer at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks. “Taking the best technology, making it in the best place with the value chain and pushing it out into the market.”

Young said the new pact will also encourage Hong Kong biotechnology companies to use Germany as a base for their European operations and for obtaining necessary certification for their products.

Andros Chan, the chairman of the HKMHDIA, said Hong Kong’s expertise in manufacturing electrical appliances, precision machines and electronic components made it well-positioned to also develop medical devices.

The cooperation is in a preliminary phase, Hiegl said. If successful, Medical Valley EMN will seek further funding to expand the project beyond 2017, he added.

Data from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council showed that the city’s exports of medical and health care products stood at US$1.5 billion last year. Diagnostic apparatus represented 24 per cent of exports, while medical instruments and appliances made up 21.4 per cent.