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China: Challenges and opportunities for Swiss medtech companies

The Chinese health market is growing. The reasons for this include urbanization and a growing middle class. At the same time, people are living longer and suffering from chronic illnesses. Nevertheless, it is far from easy for foreign companies to gain a foothold in the Chinese medtech industry.

For Swiss medtech companies, breaking into the Chinese market represents a challenge

Partly because of government objectives. With the healthcare system, the Chinese government aims to steer people towards being treated in public healthcare institutions, and at the same time, most doctors are reluctant to give up their careers in a public hospital. This means the private healthcare sector is unsurprisingly small.

The Chinese market demands time and money

On top of this, new guidelines are making it difficult for foreign companies to sell their products within China. A new regulation requires clinical tests to be carried out for innovative products, which is a costly and time-consuming process. Studies for a product cost between 1 and 1.5 million US dollars and the issuing of a licence can take between three and five years. Access to the Chinese market therefore demands time, money and patience. Against this background, start-ups in particular may choose to focus on countries other than China.
Swiss SMEs are primarily attempting to make the leap to China through partnerships. This way, they minimize risks and benefit from the experts in situ.

In spite of these hurdles, it is possible to achieve success within the Asian giant. There is market potential, most notably, in innovative products that cannot easily be copied. The Chinese medtech market is actually dominated by foreign players that have been able to prove themselves with imports or locally produced products. Furthermore, successful local firms are also often supported by foreign companies.

Further information about the Chinese medtech sector can be found in the report in the download area.

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