Medtronic and other large medical device companies are looking toward China to tap the growth fueled by a rising middle class demanding better quality of care.
And looks like there will be no dearth of talented engineers and other personnel to draw from.
A Chinese academic who spoke to a Minnesota audience Wednesday said that in his institute alone there are 2,000 medical device undergraduates.
In his speech, Chengli Song, professor and executive director of the Shanghai Institute for Minimally Invasive Therapy, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, noted that China is open for business and welcomes international collaboration.
“China is not a closed door anymore,” Song said at the event organized by the Carlson School of Management and the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota(MILI).
MILI is also the entity that has entered into a memorandum of agreement withSchool of Medical Instrument and Food Engineering, where Song is deputy dean, to evaluate Chinese medical technology.
Song said that international collaboration is something that China is actively seeking because the central government has a vaunted goal that by 2020 – less than eight years away – every Chinese citizen will have access to basic healthcare service.
Currently, the nation’s population is 1.3 billion, accounting for 20 percent of the global population.
Achieving basic healthcare for every Chinese will be no mean feat and that is why in the last three years, the government has pumped billions of dollars to upgrade and improve the infrastructure of the healthcare system as well as in R&D.
All of this has led to a surge in homegrown medical device companies and a rising domestic sector in the nation. Song said China has 13,000 medical device companies, of which 3,500 were Class I device companies, 7,600 Class II and 2,300 Class III firms.
China also plays host twice a year to the a large medical device and equipment trade show – China International Medical Equipment Fair. Each province in China occupies a portion of the exhibit area and there is also a separate exhibition space for Chinese companies across all provinces,in addition to many foreign companies.
While 10 years ago, there weren’t many small-to-medium sized Chinese medical equipment companies, that has now changed dramatically with manysmall orthopedics companies with each company having annual revenue of $10 million.
“In the last 10 years, (medical device companies have grown like mushrooms),” Song said. “Ten years ago it was a rice field and now it has become a modern factory.”
That the government is also taking note of the device market was apparent when President Hu Jintao spoke of the need to “develop advanced medical device R&D and industry” Song said. That marked the first time that any political leader mentioned the device industry by name.
“If you know Chinese politics or how the government proceeds, whenever the top leader mentions something, it means that it is very important,” he said. “And then it comes with ministry plans, it comes with investment and policy changes. We do see the difference after his speech.”