Lack of Relevant Talent is Top Hurdle for Health Tech Startups in APAC, Report Says

An APAC study of health tech startups provides insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sector.

The report also reveals how SMEs can be supported to overcome the common challenges they face in scaling and growing.

Titled “Asia Pacific’s Healthcare Technologies Ecosystem: Enhancing Start-up and SME success,” the Medtronic-Economist Impact white paper was released yesterday at the Medtronic Open Innovation Conference in Singapore.


The study gathered feedback from 150 senior executives of startups and SMEs across 15 markets in the APAC region. Insights were also gained through six qualitative interviews with industry leaders and company representatives from the health technology sector.

More than half of survey respondents indicated that COVID-19 was a catalyst for progress, implementation and the development of innovative ideas. Companies that have successfully tapped into the right talent pool, networks and funding have found themselves in opportunities for rapid growth during the pandemic. However, this was not the case for the remaining 35% of respondents who said the pandemic had caused their businesses to stagnate.

The report shows that while many health tech startups and SMEs have excelled at adopting and innovating new technologies, there are still many barriers that hinder the advancement of companies in this sector.

The main challenge these startups and SMEs face is finding the right talent with the relevant skills, experience, and expertise. Meanwhile, lack of data privacy and security regulation ranks second, cited as a significant barrier by 80% of respondents.

Other barriers raised by respondents include regulatory compliance issues, partnerships and collaborations, market saturation and established competitors. Many early-stage start-ups also struggle to access sufficient funding and financing to sustainably roll out their business ideas.

Challenges around talent recruitment, data privacy, and funding aren’t unique to the healthtech industry, as startups and SMBs in many markets face similar issues. However, the report suggests that solutions will need to target this sector only. He continues that various forms of support and partnerships can be initiated to help these startups and SMEs identify opportunities for expansion and growth, such as:

  • Support the recruitment of relevant talent and skills.
  • Clarity in all health technology assessment processes.
  • Support for networking and access to health system stakeholders.
  • Assistance in navigating regulatory hurdles across countries and regions.
  • Government support for startups.
  • Funding and financial support.
  • Partnerships and collaboration with the public and private sector.


APAC startups and SMEs are positioned at the forefront of digitization and advancement of technology in the medical and healthcare sector. These companies hold enormous potential for improving the quality and accessibility of health services in the region.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to solving their problems, and each business will need unique forms of support, according to the report. He went on to suggest that in addition to being enterprise-specific, solutions will also need to “adapt to the fragmentation and security regulations of healthcare systems, and take into account the range of complex cross-domain knowledge.” that new talent in the industry needs to know”.

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