Life science and biomedical companies are reinforcing their presence in Asia, particularly in Singapore, where growth continues to be foreseeable and steady.

The growth activity is centred on areas such as an increased spend on overall public health care, widening the prospective patient pools and bolstering consumer demand. These increases are driving the growth of sales offices and manufacturing operations, as well as research and development (R&D) facilities around Asia.

With eight of the top 10 pharmaceutical and medical technology firms basing their headquarters in Singapore, there is growing demand for those with expertise in the laboratory, technical sales and regulatory affairs. Quality and engineering-related skillsets are also high in demand due to new start-ups and continued expansion in Singapore.

Singapore continues its commitment to develop a manpower base capable of taking on manufacturing requirements of the future. According to Economic Development Board Singapore, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing sector in Singapore is currently supported by over 4,800 skilled engineers and technicians. Companies can also hire quality candidates from a pool of more than 300,000 skilled employees in related sectors such as chemicals, electronics and engineering.

Singapore, the growing global hub

GSK, Baxter and Roche all launched their first-in-Asia commercial production facilities in Singapore in 2009. Some companies, such as Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis and Abbott, have chosen Singapore as their global manufacturing base. The growth of multinationals sees several of them choosing to establish themselves in Singapore as headquarters. Increased global activity in Singapore requires promising talent with the specialist skills required to market branded pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biotechnology developments. They will need to be able to share practical know-how and information resources with hospitals, pharmacies and clinics.

The continued success of large pharmaceutical corporations and a surge in biopharmaceutical start-up firms has led to the creation of a range of new pharmaceutical job opportunities in Singapore. The market has remained ripe with promise and highly skilled professionals continue to be in demand. Many companies have identified that there are not enough suitably qualified candidates in the market and this has produced a ‘war for talent’ among pharmaceutical companies in a bid to compete for the most viable talent. Heightened competition in the professional space is producing great opportunities for the most talented professionals to advance their careers.

Opportunities in broad demand

Some of the positions seeing increasing widespread demand include those in sales and marketing, such as product or brand managers, commercial directors, regulatory affairs and medical affairs. Other opportunities that remain promising include those in manufacturing such as quality, validation, process engineers, operation managers and research scientists.

The areas that may see a shortage of specialist skills include clinical research, quality and engineering. These areas may need to attract overseas talent or lure suitable Singaporean talent working abroad to compensate for the lack of local talent.

Singapore is also a biomedical hub and is home over 6,000 researchers from across the globe including world-renowned scientific talent that have moved to Singapore to lead the city state’s research institutes, consortia and laboratories. This will remain a thriving growth area for employment in the country.

Talent strategy as a strength

One of Singapore’s strengths in creating a global innovation economy is its talent strategy. To support biomedical R&D activities, the Biopolis fosters the exchange of ideas and close collaborations both among and beyond the research community located there. The institute fosters strong partnership opportunities and allows top-performing alumni from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School to carry out research in the regional hub advancing human healthcare.

Indeed the Biopolis, in line with the Singapore economy, is diversifying to leverage new areas which are fast-growing in the Asia Pacific such as medical technology, personal care, and food and nutrition. Many of its research programmes are also well integrated with the clinical and academic research communities, a good example of which would be stratified medicine.

Today, the Biopolis hosts more than 40 private companies, including some of the best-in-class research collaborations with companies such as Merck, Novartis, Bayer Healthcare, Novartis and P&G, which have set up headquarters in Singapore. These are all signs of the Singapore government’s commitment to attracting quality talent and retaining a mix of foreign and local talent.

Specialist talent needed for the next era of growth

As more organisations are expected to require professionals with healthcare and life sciences skills over the next year, employers will need to rethink ways to better secure talent through competitive packages, higher salary increments and overall benefits. Some companies will offer performance-based bonuses and transport allowances to attract the best staff at the beginning of the year.

Hiring activity in the healthcare and life sciences industry is anticipated to be steady over the next 12 months as more companies expand their research and development functions in Singapore. An ongoing demand for professionals with specialist skillsets and talent across the pharmaceutical, nutrition and medical device areas will see these areas developing as more companies aim to establish or enhance their market share.

Long-term career development plans are another carrot being dangled, as attracting top performers remains a viable priority and concern of organisations in healthcare and life sciences developing their presence in Singapore.

Overall, fresh talent is needed to fuel the industry further. New talent with a forward-thinking outlook is needed to extend Singapore’s advancement of biomedical technologies and sustain its world-class facilities dedicated to the growing needs of the industry.

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The booming life sciences and biomedical sectors in Asia, particularly Singapore, are proving very attractive to candidates in these industries.

  • Major multinational pharmaceutical companies such as GSK, Baxter and Roche all recently launched first-in-Asia commercial production facilities in Singapore
  • There has been a surge in biomedical start-up firms
  • A shortage of talent combined with a wide-ranging demand for skills has given rise to a candidate-driven market