President Ma Ying-jeou met on the afternoon of December 10 with Mr. Alexandre Jetzer-Chung, member emeritus of the board of directors of Novartis AG. In addition to welcoming Mr. Jetzer-Chung to Taiwan, the president expressed hope that Novartis will continue to expand its investment in Taiwan and strengthen bilateral cooperation and interaction in the areas of training and venture capital activities.
In remarks, President Ma commented that Novartis is a world leader in new treatment techniques and health products that has made important achievements in many different areas, including: cardiovascular, metabolism, neuroscience, oncology, transplantation, and ophthalmology. Novartis, the president stated, has long emphasized the development of Taiwan's biomedical industry, and has interacted closely with Taiwan in the cultivation of talent, academic exchange, development of innovative drugs, clinical trials, and investment, which has benefited Taiwan greatly.
President Ma noted that the government's policy on the biomedical industry since the 1980s has targeted biotechnology as an important area for development. In 1995, it formulated the Promotion Program for Biotechnology Industry to solidify the foundation for the development of the biomedical and pharmaceutical sectors, he said. President Ma added that after he took office in 2008, the Biotechnology Take-off Diamond Action Plan was adopted in 2009 in order to: (1) strengthen the R&D capabilities of the industry; (2) to establish a biotechnology venture capital fund to attract new investment; and (3) to support establishment of the Supra Integration and Incubation Center. The government also engaged in regulatory harmonization to keep Taiwan's regulatory environment in sync with that of the international community, he said. President Ma mentioned that the government in 2013 unveiled the Taiwan Biotech Industrialization Take-off Action Plan, which singled out the pharmaceutical drugs, medical equipment, and health care management services as targets for active promotion over the coming three years with the hope of establishing Taiwan brand names for these industries and enabling Taiwan's biotech industry to move into the international arena.
Commenting on the developmental successes of Taiwan's biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, the president said the biomedical industry in 2013 brought in revenues of US$8.9 billion and attracted investments of US$1.5 billion, up by about 5% and 16%, respectively, from 2012. In recent years the business focus of Taiwan's biomedical companies has gradually shifted from investment in R&D to the construction of production facilities, while the proportion of large investments is also on the rise, he remarked. The president said this points to the transition and thriving development of Taiwan's biomedical industry.
President Ma also explained to Mr. Jetzer-Chung Taiwan's strengths in the biomedical industry, noting that Taiwan is internationally recognized for its outstanding business climate in the biomedical industry. The World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 ranked Taiwan 14th in its Global Competitiveness Index and fourth in Asia, behind only Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong, he said. Meanwhile, the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute in its 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Taiwan eighth in the world and No. 1 in Asia. The president also pointed out that according to Innovative Asia: Advancing the Knowledge-Based Economy, a report released by the Asian Development Bank, Taiwan received a rating of 8.77 in the Knowledge Economy Index, which topped all Asian economies. Taiwan's score was double the average for Asia, and was also higher than the average for members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. These statistics are testament to the innovation and R&D abilities of Taiwan, he said.
The president emphasized that Taiwan is situated in the heart of the Asia-Pacific region and offers a gateway to the mainland China market. Unlike Japan, Korea, and Singapore, Taiwan shares a common language and culture with mainland China, and is more conveniently located, making it the ideal springboard for other countries to the Asia-Pacific market, he said. Taiwan also offers market potential of its own that cannot be ignored, the president added. At the same time, he noted, Taiwan has a highly developed regulatory system and a well laid-out framework for the protection of intellectual property, while also offering investment incentives, which will help to underpin the development of the sector.
Lastly, President Ma expressed hope that Novartis will invest more in Taiwan and work closely with this country to cultivate talent and promote venture capital.