SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea announced a large-scale investment plan for the biohealth industry on Wednesday in an effort to nurture what it sees as a future growth engine.
Under the plan, 36 pharmaceutical makers and five venture capital firms, including Samsung Biologics Co. and Celltrion Inc., will invest a combined 10 trillion won (US$9.04 billion) by 2023 to hone their competitiveness and technological capabilities.
The largest 8.4 trillion won will be spent on developing medicines, followed by investments in startups with 1.4 trillion won. The remainder will be earmarked for medical equipment and digital health care sectors.
In line with the strategy, the government will sharply increase its spending on research and development (R&D) and take other measures to help promote the biohealth industry.
The government has set its biohealth R&D budget for next year at 1.7 trillion won, up approximately 30 percent from this year.
In particular, the government will spend 640 billion won on pan-ministerial cooperation projects in 2021, more than double the amount set for this year.
A biohealth manpower training center will be opened at Yonsei University’s International Campus in Songdo, west of Seoul, this year with the aim of producing 2,000 skilled workers per year from 2024.
The government will establish an artificial intelligence-based medicine manufacturing innovation center to help pharmaceutical firms cut the duration and cost of developing new drugs.
The government will provide support for medical equipment makers’ efforts to boost domestic sales, seek to promote their exports, set up a big data platform to hone the digital health care sector and make concerted efforts to further foster three major biohealth clusters.
In addition, the government signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a world-class biohealth ecosystem with Yonsei University, bio firms and equipment makers, including Samsung Biologics and Celltrion.
Should the investment plan go off without a hitch, the government forecast the local biohealth industry’s output to expand at an annualized rate of about 20 percent till 2023, with some 9,300 new jobs to be created.
South Korea’s biohealth industry has been growing rapidly in recent years.
Exports of medicines and medical equipment rose to $8.91 billion in 2019 from $8.28 billion in 2018 and $7.23 billion in 2017.
Exports came to $10.77 billion as of end-October this year on strong shipments of coronavirus test kits and new drug technologies, passing the $10 billion mark for the first time.
The number of workers hired by the health care industry stood at 941,000 as of end-September, compared with 920,000 at the end of last year.