​Turning ideas into innovation, research and development (R&D) is the lifeblood of the life sciences industry. In an increasingly competitive environment, a company’s survival is almost wholly dependent on the discovery and development of new products, including medicines, vaccines and medical devices. Research and development is a serious investment in time and money – on average, large multinational drug companies spend 17% of their revenues of R&D, while it takes ten years on average to bring a new drug to market.

Thanks to investment in talent and technology, as well as collaborative efforts of researchers, designers, engineers, manufacturers and regulators, companies worldwide continue to bring thousands of novel products into being for the benefit of individuals and wider society. The latest release of DrugBank contains over 13,000 approved rug entries that are available in the global market. According to a report from the World Health Organization there are more than 10,000 types and 1.5 million pieces of medical devices or equipment available today.

Myles Whiting, design team leader at medical device company Owen Mumford, echoes the importance of this collaborative effort in research and development, “Product designers must work with marketing teams to establish unmet market and customer needs, then marketing teams interpret and deliver market context and customer needs to the engineers, who then have the ability to process this into measurable design input. The research and information is gathered, this is then accumulated into a brief which the designer uses to address the market or customer need.”

Technological advancements have reduced the cost of research and development – helping to accelerate investment in life sciences – while also creating new opportunities for product innovations as the Fourth Industrial revolution blurs the boundaries between the biological, physical and digital worlds. According to a report by KPMG, the cost of drug R&D will drop by 2030, leading to numerous benefits for the both the industry and consumer in terms of cost savings.

While regulators play catchup, companies are rushing to capitalize on the booming sector. A recent survey of 543 medical device executives in North America, Europe and Asia by Emergo, suggests the sector is pushing forward with aggressive investment. The majority of survey participants (53%) indicated they would increase their R&D investments over the next 12 months and more than 70% of survey respondents say they will begin R&D efforts on multiple new devices over the next 12 months.

Globally, R&D spending in medical device is anticipated to grow by 4.5% to hit $39bn by 2024. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is forecasted to reach $181bn by 2022, growing at an average rate of four percent year on year. Deloitte reports that advanced technologies and innovations such as robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, real-world evidence, digital health and telemedicine, can impact R&D across the entire value chain –from drug discovery to clinical trials and regulatory reporting.

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