Low Technological Prowess and Lack of Collaboration Could Hamper Malaysia’s 4.0 Industry Vision in the Medical Device Manufacturing Sector

In 2019, the medical device industry was identified as one of the 3 + 2 high growth subsectors under the 11th Malaysia Plan. With over 200 manufacturers and investments estimated to be at RM14 billion, Malaysia is moving ahead to becoming a global medical device manufacturing hub.

In fact, Penang is fast becoming an attraction to multinationals manufacturing medical devices. B. Braun was the first to operate its medical devices manufacturing in Penang in 1972. As of August 2020, B. Braun had invested a total of RM4.46 billion in Penang. Other multinationals followed suit including Boston Scientific that has set up its factory and commenced operations in 2017.

Andaman Medical.Com listed six facts about the medical device industry in Malaysia:

  • “The domestic medical device market in Malaysia is forecasted to be worth US$2.0billion in 2022, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.5% between 2018 and 2022F according to a report published by KPMG”.
  • Currently, Malaysia’s medical manufacturers supply 60% of the world market for medical gloves and 80% for catheters.
  • Malaysia currently imports around 95% of its need for medical devices.
  • “Overall, the market attractiveness for medical device companies considering entering the Malaysian market is high in terms of robustness of the regulatory network, application of digitalized distribution and centralization of procurement process”.
  • Malaysia has attracted some well-known multinational corporations including B. Braun which has its APAC regional headquarters and a Centre of Excellence for Intravenous Access (IA) in Penang, Malaysia.
  • The medical devices industry is expected to positively impact the Malaysian economy as it transitions to manufacturing higher value-added and technologically advanced products, such as cardiac pacemakers, stents, orthopaedic implantable devices, electro-medical, therapeutic, and monitoring devices.

Multinationals select Malaysia as a medical device manufacturing destination because of economics, availability of talent, labour, infrastructure, intellectual property protection and the added benefit of English fluency. While things are working out for multinationals, it’s another story for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

Dr. Kartini Noorsal, Director of the Industrial Centre of Innovation in Biomedical at SIRIM Berhad in a 2020 Bernama opinion column noted that the local medical device industry still has a long road ahead. This is mainly because of the low technological prowess of the manufacturers. Specifically, she notes that the research and development capabilities of the Malaysian medical device players are lacking.

Investments in product innovation and technological advancements are costly. SMEs are often unwilling to fork out the expenses as only about six % of their annual budget is allocated for research and development. She offers a solution that SMEs can rent out SIRIM facilities in order to enhance their research and innovation needs.

Dr. Kartini also notes that close collaboration between industry players and research institutes is needed to bring about innovation.  “We need to develop the necessary talent and attain a certain level of skill to catalyse innovation” she states.

The ample presence of qualified doctors in the Malaysian market could alleviate this problem for SME’s and research institutes. For example, doctors could carry out research and innovation services for SMEs at an affordable price. As for greater collaboration between the medical device industry and research institutes to boost innovation, who better to serve as a liaison between the two if not medical doctors?

Being a doctor is not just limited to being confined to a hospital. In fact, healthcare is wide and contains many subsections and medical device technology is just one part of it. There are many gaps in industry that doctors could fill. Those looking for skilled researchers to engage in research, development, and innovation should contact Disruptive Doctors for more information.


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