Taiwan's non-profit research and development organisation, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), reported on June 2 that medical equipment exports increased 10% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year for a total of $205.7m.
An analyst from ITRI said much of the growth was due to large international medical suppliers outsourcing their orders to subcontractors. ITRI reported there was also increased demand from emerging markets around the world.
Taiwan's main medical equipment exports were vehicles for the disabled, which accounted for 15% of the total, for around $19m. Contact lenses, equipment for experimental or medical use, and parts and accessories for medical instruments were other significant sectors.
On June 1, Medtecs Taiwan Corp, a subsidiary of the Medtecs Group, announced it is setting up a joint venture in South Africa to sell medical equipment made in Taiwan. The venture, with CIH Group South Africa will distribute Medtecs medical products to the African market.
Medtecs will own 50% of the joint venture named Medtecs Phambili. Medtecs estimates that even though 90% of the medical apparatus market in South Africa is served by US and European imports, Taiwanese products could be very competitive.
According to research by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), the South African medical equipment market has huge potential for Taiwanese firms. The report says that South Africa's medical institutions have tight budgets, which could favour Taiwanese suppliers due to their competitive prices. In March this year, TAITRA held medical device and health care products trade fairs in South Africa to help promote Taiwanese companies. Delegates from 10 Taiwanese companies and around 60 South African companies visited the fairs held in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
As Taiwan is known for its expertise in high-tech manufacturing, it is hoping to leverage this to become a global leader in high tech medical devices as well.
It is the aim of the government to combine Taiwan's existing technology manufacturing expertise to create new high-tech medical products that can be exported around the world.
High-tech mobile devices and services such as mobile care are being developed and used in Taiwan. Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest telecoms company is launching "Taiwan Mobile Health Care Services," a program aimed to deliver real-time remote medical services using WiMAX technology.
This service is the first of it kind in Taiwan and aims to support emergency medical assistance and patient care services outside of medical institutions. The speed of the technology will allow information such as a patient's medical files and other communications to be sent between medical institutions and remote locations. The service will be launched in two of Taipei's hospitals - Medical University and Taipei City-Wan Fang.
At the end of April, the department of health (DOH) announced that the procedure to register some new medical products would be significantly simplified which should help the industry's competitiveness.
In 2005 a law was passed that required manufacturers to go through a government approval process for all new medical devices. The law was designed to protect patients but drew criticism from the industry for being quite strict. Companies who wanted to launch even the simplest products had to submit large amounts of information, including clinical data, to DOH and the application process took, on average, 140 days. Now companies wishing to register simple devices have only to fill out a form at the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs. The DOH has said it will look into improving the application process for more sophisticated devices.