Exploring Singapore’s burgeoning health tech scene

Singapore attracted over USD 105 million in funding for health tech startups in 2018.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Across APAC (Asia-Pacific), healthcare startups attracted billions of US dollars in investments, USD 6.3 billion across 294 deals in 2018. The most significant investment was in health tech in Singapore, attracting over USD 105 million, accounting for 24% of the APAC total deals last year.

Singapore has a growing market for health tech startups in APAC with obtaining investors a priority for healthcare technology development. Singapore’s UCare.ai. raised the most substantial investment in a health tech startup for the country at USD 8.2 million.

According to Singapore’s HealthTech Ecosystem 2018 report by Galen Growth Asia, startups in this sector grew from 45 in 2012 to 174 in 2018. There are also more health tech startups maturing into second-stage funding, Series B stages of investments, with 60% of the CEOs of the top 20 startups in this market coming from overseas.

The report also indicated that 12 out of the 58 investors in health tech startups, were corporate venture capital firms, and 34 of them were venture capital firms. The rest were angel investors, family offices, and startups. Singapore-based investors included SGInnovate, Heritas Venture Fund, Venturecraft, and Wavemaker Partners.

Health Tech accelerators

As a result of these developments, health tech accelerators like Australia’s BlueChilli established their headquarters in Singapore to provide tech development services to health tech startups. BlueChilli provides services and training, networking, mentoring, and seed funding for early-stage startups in Southeast Asia’s healthcare technology.

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Providing access to global startup advisors, corporate partners, and investors–BlueChilli is helping to diversify the Singapore scene. Previously, the health tech market has focused on the telemedicine services and medical device production aspects of healthcare.

There is a rising need for affordable and quality healthcare in the region, and with more lenient regulations in Southeast Asia, technology in healthcare is a growing industry.

A partnership with healthcare professionals

While there is much excitement about the potential of technology in healthcare, there is also a feeling that until startups begin communicating with doctors and other healthcare professionals, an opportunity is being missed to develop products that will actually make a difference to patients. Born from this thinking, Catalyst is an innovative working space bringing together health tech startups, corporate partners, clinicians, and other healthcare professionals. Catalyst is a partnership aiming to generate better healthcare options that will have an impact.

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Partnering with corporations is promising for health tech innovators because corporations take a different approach to the development of products. They employ in-house research, development and investment teams who seek partnerships and have the capital to test pilot products.

Catalyst’s Co-Founder Dharmawan Angela Renayanti addresses the impending issues Singapore faces, “The biggest hurdle is fundraising. There is a lot of money in health tech, especially for app development, because they are easy to understand–but when it comes to medtech–the available money is significantly lower.”

Renayanti, a bioengineer, doctor, surgeon, and cofounder of two medtech startups, hopes to move Catalyst towards becoming an accelerator for health tech and medtech startups in Singapore.

The future of Singapore’s healthcare technology

The need for better cost-effective solutions for consumers is a driving force behind the growth of health tech startups in APAC. Biofourmis is a prominent startup that has received funding for its innovative approach with artificial intelligence. The company uses an artificial intelligence-powered platform, wearable biosensors, and a mobile app to manage chronic health conditions for patients. Biofourmis received USD 35 million in a Series B round of funding for its healthcare technology product.

Singapore is seeing more investments coming from corporate health tech partnerships, such as Johnson & Johnson’s partnership with Holmusk, a digital health data analytics company, and Ark, a cancer detection startup.

DocDoc, a company that provides data-driven doctor discovery services to insurance companies, secured USD 5.45 million while Obvio-Health, a company that offers site-less clinical trials, raised USD 3 million.

Despite these collaborations and being allocated USD 4 billion for research and development from the country’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 from 2016 to 2020, Singapore still lags behind India and China with health tech investments this year. Julien Salaberry, CEO of Galen Growth Asia, believes they can make advancements if Singapore focuses on its health tech industry the way it does for fintech.

The healthcare technology industry in Singapore is moving at lightning speed towards the process of getting their health tech commercialised, launched in other markets, and to relax their regulations. This is evidenced in the revision of regulations by the Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA)’s immediate to market Class B and C mobile medical applications for both live monitoring ECG for cardiac patients and a product that calculates insulin dosage.

Demand for solutions in healthcare is a driving force for the growth of the health tech industry in APAC. Strong collaborations between the private and public sectors have generated innovative ideas. Singapore’s expanding healthcare technology is rising to meet the needs of its consumers. The region’s geographic location and transhipment destination have made it a hub for medtech and health tech in APAC.

This article first appeared on Tech Collective.