The economic impact of the proposed Cape Health Technology Park (CHTP,) during its construction phase, could be transformational with R1.57bn contribution to the economy; 2,000 direct jobs; and 4,165 indirect and induced jobs added to the national economy, based on a construction investment of R757m. During its ten-year operational phase, the CHTP is set to contribute more than 13,000 jobs – and close to R10bn – to the economy.
With four excellent universities and academic hospitals, sound infrastructure and a world class international airport offering easy access to Africa, Cape Town is ideally positioned for the CHTP. These were the views of Ryan Ravens, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, at Accelerate Cape Town’s recent forum on Cape Town as Africa’s Pharma R&D and Healthtech Hub. The African continent’s pharmaceutical market is expected to grow between US$40bn and US$65bn by 2020 – after having grown 342.5% in ten years by 2013. This, together with leading scientific research and the fact that 43% of medical technology start-ups are in the Western Cape, have led the Dept. of Science and Technology and WC Government, in partnership with Wesgro, to investigate the business case and viability of a CHTP to support health technology innovation in the Western Cape.
Craig Landsberg, Wesgro’s CHTP Project Manager, said: “The benefits to knowledge based, innovation focused companies in co-locating at a world-class facility, where there is access to value-adding technical and business support services, as well as collaboration opportunities, has been proven in many parts of the world. Such facilities attract other value chain players which creates an enabling ecosystem that benefits the sector and stimulates economic growth. If successful, it acts as a catalyst to formalise or further augment budding health sector clusters. Foreign investors are encouraged by structured public-private partnerships, which characterises the CHTP, and hence we anticipate that international healthcare players will take an interest in the CHTP. The timelines for an operational ‘greenfields’ facility scoped to satisfy a five to seven-year demand is early to mid-2018. However, owing to the keen interest experienced in the CHTP, and that certain companies are keen to locate to the CHTP as soon as possible, we are considering a phased approach. In terms of location, the CHTP is ideally located in proximity to Biovac, the vaccines manufacturer, as Biovac’s R&D division is a potential key anchor tenant of the CHTP.”
In discussing international best practice, Prof. Paul Herrling, chairman of the board of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore, said “The Singapore government launched the Singapore Biomedical Science Initiative in 2000 which, by 2011, had attracted more than 30 of the world’s leading biomedical sciences companies to grow the sector by 30%. For Cape Town to attract international pharma companies and establish a successful R&D hub like Singapore, it needs access to talent, a superior research environment – spanning basic sciences, research hospitals, and biotech; proximity to patients and their doctors; acceptable animal experimentation laws; good Intellectual Property protection; and – given the long-term nature of the investments you seek to attract to the region – a stable political environment.”
Prof. Kelly Chibale, Founder of UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) explained, “Big pharma companies are commercial entities that serve shareholders, generate jobs, contribute to tax revenues, and make the critical long term investments necessary for successful pharmaceutical R&D. Their commercial success is integral to successful drug discovery and the associated socio-economic benefits that South Africa and Africa requires. Sound infrastructure and a business friendly environment are strategic imperatives, as is adequate talent, capacity, and support services. We are fortunate in that much of this already exists in the Cape and that many public and private sector decision makers actively support this initiative.”
Ravens concluded by saying: “The regional business community understands the need to foster long term, sustainable growth for socio-economic improvement. For this reason, we are also committed to building sustainable regional competitiveness through innovation. Accelerate Cape Town looks forward to furthering the public and private sector collaboration that is necessary to help get this important project underway.”
This article originally featured in Cape Business News on 26 Nov 2015.