Singapore – despite its modest USD 1.22 billion domestic market – has long been one of Asia’s leading biopharmaceutical hubs and a magnet for top talent. Multitudes of biopharma and medtech multinationals, as well as domestic start-ups, have based regional functions in the clean, English speaking, and well-developed city-state with access to strong domestic talent as well an international talent pool willing and able to relocate.
This situation has been facilitated by favourable governmental policies, as Nawal Roy, founder and CEO of Singapore-headquartered global digital health platform Holmusk, explains. “Singapore has a great talent immigration policy. One of the biggest roadblocks to building a healthcare company is talent, and in this sector, talent is always sourced globally. In terms of connectivity, certainly pre-COVID, Singapore offers access to all the international hubs in a single direct flight. This is how we have managed to open seven different offices across the world as a six-year-old start-up.”
Singapore has a great talent immigration policy
This view is echoed by Ashish Pal, managing director for MSD’s operations in Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei as well as president of Singaporean pharma industry association SAPI and VP of its Malaysian equivalent, PhAMA. “We truly applaud Singapore’s visionary and progressive leadership alongside the right enabling environment and talent, which have made it a leading biopharmaceutical hub,” he asserts.
However, the fact remains that Singapore is a small country with a small talent pool. Despite COVID-19 restricting international movement, for precision diagnostics firm Histoindex, the pandemic has perhaps been a blessing in disguise. Co-Founder and CEO Gideon Ho notes that “The expertise [in Singapore] in biomedical sciences on the commercial side is still not very developed, so we do have to source globally. HistoIndex works with a very global team and before COVID-19, it was challenging to bring the necessary talent we needed into Singapore because of work passes and visa restrictions. However, since COVID-19, this challenge has been mitigated somewhat since remote working has become the norm.”
These times call for an even greater focus on diversity and inclusion
In the increasingly digitalised world that COVID has potentially facilitated, healthcare companies in Singapore would do well to look beyond their own industry to solve upcoming talent challenges and leverage the country’s expertise in other fields. As Mervyn Lim of ResMed – whose cloud-connected medical devices aim to transform care for people with sleep apnea, COPD and other chronic diseases – points out, “We are always open to talent. As we increasingly push towards a more digitalised future, we are aware that talent could come both from within and also from other industries. I am an example of that, being someone who came from tech to healthcare many years ago.”
MSD’s Pal thinks along the same lines, with a wider talent scope in place, including greater emphasis on building diverse teams. “These times call for an even greater focus on diversity and inclusion,” he proclaims. “This has been a part of our continuing journey across the cluster, with a focus on colleague development in addition to attracting and retaining talent. We have also recruited talented colleagues from outside of the industry because I believe that this is something that we need now more than ever, in this new normal. This, amongst several other initiatives, is accelerating the evolution of our operating model.”