Charleston Regional Development helps Biomedical Companies Tap into Local Networks
SummaryAs Biomedical companies from around the world take stock after attending the industry flagship MEDICA show in Duesseldorf, many will have sown the seeds of new partnerships, client relationships, and international research collaborations. For some, their company growth may be pointing to a rise in cross-border business and a need to consider an overseas presence – perhaps for the first time.
~~As Biomedical companies from around the world take stock after attending the industry flagship MEDICA show in Duesseldorf, many will have sown the seeds of new partnerships, client relationships, and international research collaborations. For some, their company growth may be pointing to a rise in cross-border business and a need to consider an overseas presence – perhaps for the first time. Connecting up to the local network that can support and help build your business in a new market can be time and resource-consuming, but help is at hand from local government agencies set up precisely to provide this vital assistance.
Amongst the thousands of exhibitors and visitors to MEDICA every year are a growing number of international economic development and investment promotion agencies, representing cities, regions and countries from Sweden (Business Sweden) to Japan (Jetro - Japan’s External Trade Organisation). Their aim is to showcase their strengths in the sector, and they can provide interested companies with access not only to key areas of market intelligence, but also often to financial incentives including tax breaks and employment/training grants for firms that do decide to set up shop. And in many cases one of their most important roles is to help companies plug into the local business, academic and research network.
Charleston Regional Development Alliance is one such agency, representing a small but powerful medtech market in South Carolina. Mike Graney, the agency’s Vice President of Global Business Development, says that “Charleston may not be the biggest region, but this has its advantages, making it easier for companies to conduct their business, network locally and gain access to key academics at the local Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), for instance.”
And an increasing number of international companies are taking advantage of this resource. Andy Reding, US General Manager at Trumpf Medical Systems, which has had a presence in the region since 2000, recognises the role of the local education system, and the skilled workforce – particularly in areas like technical manufacturing and electro-mechanics. “The local high schools here are offering really good technical training in a bridge to the technical college – there’s great work going on in terms of workforce preparation. And companies are investing back into the system.”
A key attraction for companies like Trumpf Medical is the potential for access to skills at MUSC which, as the region's largest biomedical employer, with nearly 13,000 workers, carries out research projects worth more than $230 million a year. “We’re able to get a level of access here that I just don’t think would be possible in other metropolitan areas. MUSC has been very welcoming and open to working with us, and the hospitals here see it as part of their responsibility to help grow the local business community.”
MUSC’s reputation has led to collaborations and partnerships with companies worldwide that are choosing to make the university’s business-oriented programmes a key part of their development strategy. Last year Aeterna Zentaris Inc, a speciality biopharmaceutical company developing novel treatments in oncology and endocrinology, chose to locate its newest North American business and global commercial operations in the Charleston Region, with a $1 million investment. It subsequently announced that it would transfer its discovery library of around 100,000 compounds to MUSC as part of a long-term research relationship.
And opportunities for collaboration with MUSC are set to increase, as it moves ahead with plans to create a Center for Medical Innovation and Entrepreneurialism, whose remit is to promote entrepreneurship, leverage the expertise of peer institutions, and partner with industry.
For Mike Graney, this interaction of business and the local community works to everyone’s advantage, “Although we haven’t traditionally had a broad base in the Biomedical sector, things are changing dramatically. There’s a whole variety of programmes under way, to ensure that we can supply all that companies require, in terms of specific skills and talents.”
And for companies looking to expand internationally, whether in North America, Asia or into new European markets, the insights and expertise of the economic development agencies themselves are a resource that is often underused, but one that can play a key role in building a company’s business in a new location.