Fellow Koreans, Incheon citizens,
I have come to Songdo again for the second time in less than a month. In the last visit, we presented our strategy to spearhead the era of smart cities. Today, we are announcing a biohealth industry development strategy.
Songdo is at the forefront of the Republic of Korea’s future cities. The Incheon Metropolitan City Government’s vision and its citizens’ efforts have made Songdo what it is today. We connect with the world here in Songdo. Land that used to disappear under the sea twice a day has been transformed into an international city where the entire world interacts. Korea’s first smart city also got its start in Songdo. It has emerged as the vanguard of the Republic of Korea’s march to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and become a biohealth industry powerhouse. Our people’s expectations for Songdo have risen accordingly.
The Songdo Bio Cluster is home to 60 Korean and foreign businesses and 7,000 workers linked to biohealth. Young, talented individuals from research institutes and such prestigious universities as Yonsei have gathered here to create new ideas. In just a short while, leading global businesses and SMEs as well as a university and government ministries will sign an MOU to cultivate human resources and cooperate on technology. The Incheon Metropolitan City Government will also unveil its plan to create a specialized biohealth cluster.
Here in Songdo today, I am very pleased to present the future direction of the Republic of Korea’s biohealth industry development. I hope that Songdo’s dream to lead the world’s biohealth industry will be fulfilled as part of Korea’s vision.
There is every reason for us to give our best to biohealth: We are well suited to this future industry. The fulfillment of humanity’s desire to live a long, healthy life lies in the biohealth industry. With average life expectancy continuing to increase, biohealth will always remain a new future industry. Treatments customized to individuals through genomic data analysis and the use of artificial intelligence to develop new drugs are already a reality.
Also on the economic front, the biohealth industry harbors unlimited growth potential. The global biohealth market is forecast to grow more than 4 percent annually until 2030. In particular, the accelerated convergence of biohealth and cutting-edge technology is expected to lead to hyper growth – more than 20 percent annually – in digital healthcare, medical big data, medical AI and other emerging markets.
Up until just a few years ago, the biohealth industry was an area that we could not dare challenge. When the Korea-U.S. FTA was signed, our pharmaceutical industry was expected to be hit the hardest. However, the Republic of Korea is now writing a new chapter in the history of the biohealth industry. A domestic company developed antibody biosimilars in 2013, pioneering a new global market, and our country now boasts the world’s second-largest biomedicine production capacity. Despite still lacking core technologies and our global market share remaining in the two-percent range, confidence in our full potential is growing day by day.
Furthermore, we are turning a crisis into an opportunity while protecting the lives and health of humanity against COVID-19. We have been inundated with requests from numerous countries to supply diagnostic kits. Even amid the decline in overall exports, the exports of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other biohealth-related items have increased for 14 consecutive months. Their exports for the year – just during the first 10 months of this year – have already surpassed US$10 billion for the first time in history. The development of vaccines and treatments has progressed so much that antibody and plasma treatments will be on the market as early as the end of this year.
Far from being complacent, our companies are investing even more actively. By 2023, 40 biohealth companies will make new investments that exceed 10 trillion won and create 9,000 jobs through direct hiring alone. Today, Samsung Biologics will hold the groundbreaking ceremony for a biopharmaceutical production plant where it will invest 1.7 trillion won. Celltrion will also hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a research center and plant where it aims to manufacture a variety of products by investing 500 billion won. Samsung Biologics will emerge as the world’s No. 1 contract manufacturing organization, and Celltrion will become a world leader in the development of innovative biomedicine.
Our country’s production capacity for biopharmaceuticals will expand 1.5 times from 600,000 liters to 910,000 liters per year, which will help the Republic of Korea further solidify its status as a global production base. In addition, Songdo will also emerge as the city with the largest production capacity in the world. I join the citizens of Incheon in thanking these two companies for their huge investments.
The Republic of Korea will move beyond being the production base of biomedicine to become a biohealth industry powerhouse. The competitiveness of the biohealth industry is determined by “people and ideas.” In May last year, the Government unveiled our biohealth industry innovation strategy and is now actively supporting the efforts of domestic companies and our young people. To foster creative, talented individuals and novel ideas, we will provide assistance for unrestricted research and communication.
First, the Government will nurture 47,000 biohealth industry professionals by 2025 in cooperation with the private sector. We will actively foster not only experts in such areas as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and healthcare but also data and AI specialists. The bioprocessing research and training center, which will be established here in Yonsei University’s international campus, will become the cradle of future professionals who will lead the biohealth industry.
Second, we will help young people generate creative ideas and conduct boundless research. The Government intends to increase the biohealth R&D budget from 1.3 trillion won this year to 1.7 trillion won next year. Particularly, we will actively assist the development of new blockbuster drugs that can generate annual sales of over 1 trillion won. We will utilize mega funds to increase financial support and swiftly push ahead with projects to build healthcare and medical big data. We will help expand the depth and scope of research through the convergence of biohealth technologies not only with the electronics, chemistry and energy sectors but also with the social system.
Third, the Government will ensure that new ideas bloom into concrete projects rather than merely lingering in the lab. We will create a biohealth ecosystem: basic research conducted at universities and research institutes will lead to commercial projects through business ventures and SMEs that prompt large companies to conduct clinical trials to enter the global market. We will cultivate regional clusters in Songdo, Wonju, Osong and Daegu as bridgeheads for innovation and mutual benefit and establish a cooperative system among these clusters. Tailored support for different lines of business will be provided to promote commercialization. At the same time, we will enhance the localization of materials, parts and equipment production for pharmaceuticals. We will help secure a domestic market for medical devices, thereby laying a steppingstone for entry into the global market. Data utilization will be increased and regulations will be overhauled to help create a digital healthcare market.
Fellow Koreans and Incheon citizens,
Conventional thinking that it is difficult for an emerging country to become a biohealth industry powerhouse is being shattered. We are overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and making the potential of Korea’s biohealth industry known worldwide. Korea is advancing into the global biohealth market, once the impenetrable fortress of the United States and Europe, and has quickly surmounted the growing pains that the local biohealth industry encountered last year. Our businesses were not afraid of the world, and there was a youthful spirit that did not fear failure.
Businesspeople, workers, researchers and students,
Your courage and spirit to take on challenges are the Republic of Korea’s assets. Let’s unwaveringly invest in people and ideas. Let’s think freely and progress into the future with conviction. The support of the people and the Government is there for you.
The Republic of Korea’s vision of becoming a biohealth industry powerhouse will be realized without fail. We look forward to seeing the vision of the Republic of Korea soar once more in Songdo, a land carved out by people taking on challenges and determination.