Main Region_The Inside Story of Life Sciences in Hong Kong SAR

The Inside Story of Life Sciences in Hong Kong SAR

Hong Kong’s life sciences industry is indeed maturing alongside the territory’s ageing population and growing health consciousness. With new developments sprouting from many sides of the arena to meet intensifying demands, skills that were seemingly atypical to the industry are now required to bring big ideas to fruition. In addition, traditionally sought-after professionals remain in demand in the pharmaceutical, medical devices, and biotechnology sectors, as the industry experiences exponential growth.

One example is that of the dire skills chasm brought about by Hong Kong’s encouragement of biotech and pharma companies to list in the territory. Firms have since been making a beeline to get public listed with the new and relatively lenient IPO criteria on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. However, due to the shortage of biotech finance expertise in the market, companies are risking biotech deals due to the lack of capabilities to carry out due diligence.

As such, financiers including senior bankers and analysts from renowned banking institutions and the like may find such opportunities appealing because of the relatively stable nature of in-house finance jobs in biotech and pharma companies. Those who are willing to learn the nuts and bolts of the industry can find themselves being highly coveted by employers.

While biotech, medtech, and healthtech early stage start-ups have also been eager to jump on the IPO bandwagon, there still exists a large number of privately and/or government funded firms to add to the count in Hong Kong’s thriving start-up scene. With the big players no longer the most prominent employers, active jobseekers are presented with a wider range of choices. Although start-ups are usually not able to offer competitive salary packages or monetary benefits as compared to MNCs or SMEs, they are providing employees intangible benefits such as flatter hierarchies, higher autonomy and the promise that their work will be monumental to the grander scheme of things (such as directly contributing to the development of a potential breakthrough drug and being discovered by pharma or biotech behemoths). Candidates can expect to see the sprouting of new names in the industry and a rise in job vacancies within start-ups in the coming year.

On the commerce front, the commercial healthcare sector –– especially the consumer/OTC drugs and healthcare equipment market –– is also facing a digital revolution of sorts in marketing their products online. While the traditional distribution channels such as department stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are still at the heart of most business models, many firms are investing on online activities such as developing their own ecommerce platforms and turning to other online sales channels to widen their nets. As such, there has been a heightened requirement of digital marketing and ecommerce experts to drive market awareness and online sales.

In addition, in line with the government’s endeavours to enhance Hong Kong’s position as a “smart city”, the life sciences industry as a whole is progressively incorporating new technologies to meet the health care needs of the population. Biotechnology, in particular, is growing in prominence and this is bolstered by government support in the latest 2018-19 budget, where the industry has been highlighted as one of the four areas in driving innovation and technology in Hong Kong.

Currently, Hong Kong is home to over 250 biotechnology-related businesses, which operate in the territory’s ideal infrastructure, research funding and R&D capabilities. According to government-led BrandHK, to meet the growing demand for such talent, Hong Kong universities have been actively incorporating programmes that cover biomedical research, resulting in “made major contributions in fields such as genomics and infectious diseases”. R&D scientists who already possess PhD qualifications and specialised research experience can expect high salary levels in this talent-short niche.

In the pharmaceutical scene, it’s no surprise that in-demand skills persist to be medical science liaisons, medical affairs experts and medical support specialists. Candidates in this area can continue to experience wage growth as businesses compete for adept talent. Mid-to-senior level professionals who can contribute their wealth of experience, on top of their local healthcare networks, maintain their leverage in this tight employment market.

With conducive conditions for Hong Kong to be a strategic gateway to Asia Pacific, both local and foreign life sciences companies have been expanding their businesses in the APAC region. As a result, local talents with a strong commercial acumen, combined with experience in regional business and cross-cultural management, are required to drive business development in new and existing markets. Regional medical sales and marketing professionals are therefore increasingly sought-after, and such, talents are likely to command high salaries due to the rapid pace of expansion plans.

To address the talent shortage, employers have been ramping up their efforts in employer branding. Companies across the industry are putting more effort into showcasing their corporate cultures and successes on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and placing greater emphasis on digital engagement to entice high-quality prospective employees. This is done on top of the usual methods such as attending career fairs and engaging specialist recruiters to reach out to superlative pools of talent.

Candidates in Hong Kong’s life sciences industry are urged to seize opportunities while they are ripe owing to the recent waves of government support and foreign investments. Those who are able to demonstrate their ability to champion growth will indeed find themselves in the best position to negotiate salary increments and packages in the coming year. 

If you would like to discuss this report in more depth or you wish to discuss your job search or recruitment needs, please email Michael Chu, Hays Hong Kong, Section Manager at .