As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the world, hospitals and healthcare facilities are being stretched, almost to breaking point in some cases. Medical equipment has inevitably become a scarce resource too. In the US, experts are predicting a shortage of protective gear, ICU beds and lifesaving ventilator machines, which can lead to a scenario where medical goods and services may need to be rationed.
To meet this rising global demand for medical supplies, the World Health Organisation called for manufacturers and governments to work together and ramp up the production of medical supplies by 40%. However, scaling up production is tricky even in times where supply chains are intact. Now more than ever, collaboration and sharing capabilities are critical, said Willy Koh, Chief Executive Officer of Racer Technology, a leading manufacturer of medical technologies. Koh is also a member of IPI’s Innovation Advisory Committee that provides insights on technology trends and market opportunities, as well as the strategic development of the Innovation Advisors Programme (IAP). This initiative supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to achieve accelerated growth through technology adoption and the development of innovation-focused products, processes and business models.
An advocate of open innovation, Racer Technology leads the Singapore Medtech Consortium (SMC), a group that promotes innovative collaboration between its members. In this article, Koh shares how Racer Technology and the SMC engage in open innovation, and how it has enabled them to grow even in times of crisis.
1. What is Racer Technology’s core competency, and how has it evolved over the years?
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of medical devices, we have expertise in the areas of product design, development, and production. Our experience in the industry has been helping us to develop and manufacture cost-effective products without compromising their quality.
Through our knowledge in assessing product opportunities, technical feasibility and the regulatory requirements, our clients are able to obtain quality solutions while minimizing development cost, time and risks. Over the years, we have extended beyond our core manufacturing capabilities to invest in start-ups and research on the latest manufacturing methodology too.
2. How does Racer Technology engage in open innovation?
Open innovation is an integral part of Racer Technology’s success journey. Since 2014, we have invested close to $1 million every year in research and development. We have offices in the US that expose us to the latest market trends, products and technologies, which we then leverage to detect any shifts in the global manufacturing landscape.
Open innovation is fully demonstrated when we share these improved capabilities with our clients globally, helping them create better solutions for their market needs. This approach has helped us to secure deals with companies like Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, whom we helped to create an insulin pump with close to 70% cost-savings.
3. How is Racer Technology helping to promote open innovation in the medtech sector?
12 years ago, SPRING Singapore, now known as Enterprise Singapore, encouraged us to mentor a few local medtech SMEs to uplift the sector. During that process, we realised that while many local SMEs want to build up their manufacturing capabilities, they also have very little exposure to what the process entails and are unaware of the investments required. To that end, we set up the Singapore Medtech Consortium (SMC), comprising a group of Singapore-based companies that provide end-to-end manufacturing solutions for in vitro diagnostics, wearables, and life sciences consumables.
What started as a group of five SMEs is now a consortium of close to 45 as the opportunities for our members have increased multi-fold over the years. Spearheaded by Racer Technology, SMC promotes innovative collaboration between companies in the sector, helping them develop new ideas and solutions for the healthcare industry. Every year, SMC also organises an overseas trip for members to visit regional and international clients and promising start-ups to expand their network for greater collaborations. Through SMC’s initatives, we hope that local SMEs will be able to recognise the importance of thinking globally. For example, SMC signed a memorandum of understanding with Medical Valley GmbH, a German medtech cluster, in 2019 to promote cooperation and open innovation between the two groups and countries at large.
4. How does SMC promote open innovation for the medtech sector and the wider healthcare industry?
Apart from promoting the development of new products and manufacturing capabilities for companies in Singapore, the SMC assists its members with regulatory and distribution matters in the Asia-Pacific market. We also help new medtech start-ups and SMEs forge new connections with angel investors and venture capitalists to grow their business.
To address the needs of the healthcare industry, SMC helps its members develop their manufacturing and production capabilities so that they can scale up their operations in a time of crisis. This is one reason why Singapore is still self-sufficient during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the strain on the global medical supply chain. At present, SMC is focusing its resources on projects to combat the coronavirus, such as manufacturing COVID-19 test kits, ventilators, and surgical face masks.
5. What advice do you have for local enterprises and SMEs looking to adopt an open innovation model?
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change,” said Albert Einstein.
In uncertain times like these, adopting open innovation will make it easier for businesses to change their course quickly and recalibrate in the right direction. Companies should realise that teamwork and talent are their most important assets too. Hence, I encourage business owners to think one step ahead, as two heads on the job are always better than one. Besides that, stay humble and be ready to learn—that is my advice for achieving success with open innovation.
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