Emerging markets gain ground in life sciences innovation

02 November 2015

New research commissioned by recently formed Dubai Science Park, written by the Economist Intelligence Unit identifies innovations that have driven development of life science industry over past thirty years

A new report, Innovation in life sciences: An emerging markets perspective, by The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Dubai Science Park, was released today identifying success factors in driving innovation in the life sciences industries of a diverse group of countries, from China and Brazil to Costa Rica.

Launched at an event hosted by Dubai Science Park, the new entity derived from the merger between DuBiotech and EnPark, at the Armani Ballroom, Dubai, the report provides insight into the importance of nurturing innovation in the field of life sciences, examining common barriers to innovation, the role of government support in nurturing the industry and a look ahead at which facets of the science industry have the most growth potential.

The report highlighted the following factors as critical to future innovation in the life science sector:

  • Medical technology and health informatics are both ripe for emerging market R&D, due to low barriers to entry, viable participation for smaller companies, and future demand projections.
  • Experience from China and Brazil shows that widening health insurance stimulates life sciences R&D by increasing demand. For smaller economies, exports can be a significant growth driver.
  • DNA sequencing, low cost heart surgery and ‘med-tech’ are among the life sciences sectors where emerging markets are finding their niche, according to the new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The research focused on successful international strategies for innovation in the life science industry and concludes with recommendations that emerging markets, such as the UAE, can undertake to facilitate their own development. For example, according to the report, one of the biggest challenges for achieving innovation in emerging markets is the low rate of international R&D collaboration. Strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and contract outsourcing are growing in popularity in the region, but tend to involve the lower end of the R&D value chain. Therefore the UAE, and beyond, must work to encourage partnerships at every level of the sector.

Secondly, a lack of publicly funded research in emerging markets in general is constraining innovation. Therefore when considering our own research ambitions, the UAE could seek to replicate the innovation benefits than can spin out of publicly-funded basic research, as demonstrated the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

When applying the learnings from the Economist’s report to the UAE, the following advantage can be derived; Dubai’s location is an excellent advantage due to its proximity to large and high potential markets of Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the affluent markets of UAE and Qatar. In addition, Dubai’s business environment and liveability rankings enable the ability to attract talent from global life sciences industry. These elements are core to Dubai’s offerings as a business hub, and are ahead of its peers in MENA.

As part of TECOM Group’s commitment to driving innovation in the Life Science industry in the UAE, the company recently announced that “Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park” (DuBiotech) and the “Energy and Environment Park (EnPark)” will operate under a joint umbrella to be known as “Dubai Science Park” (DSP). The newly formed Life Science, New Energy and Environment business community, Dubai Science Park (DSP) is the realisation of a continued ambition to respond to the evolving needs of the industry, allowing for increased collaboration and innovation.

Dubai Science Park supports both SMEs and global firms looking for a regional base for their Middle East operations, by facilitating a bespoke yet vibrant community.

Marwan Abdulaziz, Executive Director of Dubai Science Park commented on the results of the report: ”The Economist report shows that developing strong R&D capabilities helps to drive innovation in the life science sector overall. We must consider the full value chain in order to drive real innovation in the UAE’s life science industry and this does not come easily. It requires the interplay of many factors: policy interventions, public funding, strong education systems and business reforms. The principles and approaches are of value but it is up to us as an industry foster and facilitate Dubai’s life science sector in order to inspire true innovation”.

“For example, the report has allowed us to identify that Dubai has the potential to lead the market in terms of the development of the medical technology industry.  This is a promising sector for R&D in Dubai due to lower barriers to entry for emerging markets, a reliance on strong infrastructure and logistics, and opportunities for incremental innovation, an important area for emerging markets. It is also an attractive segment to focus on as chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes increasingly rely on improved technologies, rather than only on pharmaceuticals and drugs.”

“At Dubai Science Park, we are focused on providing an innovative business community that allows our partners the flexibility to develop and grow their organisations so that they may actively contribute to our life science industry. Research such as this allows us to place real focus on the particular areas we need to develop to add the most value to the sector overall.”

“Innovation is a catch-all word that is used to explain diverse activities, from a minor tweak that makes a medicine safer, through to an entirely new way of seeing the world,” says Adam Green, Economist Intelligence Unit Editor responsible for the report: “This project was an attempt to clarity to the concept of innovation in all its forms, and from there, to explore how emerging markets fit into that typology.”