The Future of the EU Biomedical Healthcare Sector


The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) explored four scenarios to determine the future business climate (to 2017) for biomedical healthcare, including R&D, manufacturing, and innovation.

Using the parameters of economic growth, public policy, workforce concerns, marketing and development strategy, and cultural values, the report examines the implications of these factors for businesses, particularly those debating whether to remain in Europe or locate elsewhere.

The future of the European biomedical healthcare sector will be dependent on:

  • Positive or stagnating growth of the European economy
  • Low or high levels of biotech industry access to capital, either through public investment or private venture capital
  • Public values behind consumer life, work, and consumption choices endorsing individual or community good
  • Positive or skeptical public perception of biotechnology
  • Extensive or limited regulation of the biotech sector
  • Local or global protection of intellectual property rights (IPR)

The following four scenarios explore varying combinations of these driving forces:

Scenario 1. Slow Boat to China — In a climate of economic decline and hampered by regulatory pressures, European biomedical companies look to Asia for growth opportunities.

Scenario 2. Forever Young — European economies are moribund, with low levels of public financing and consumer activity. Private capital favors low-risk investment, though legislation has improved local protection for IPR. To encourage biotech business, legislators have relaxed regulations on nonsurgical biomedical products. Biotechnology enjoys a positive reception for innovation in both food and medical products. A trend toward controlled lifestyles results in high-volume consumption of standardized products imported from Asia to address obesity, aging, and cosmetic imperfections. Companies marketing beauty and performance-enhancing products compete by offering personal assistance and counseling for targeted use of their products.

Scenario 3. Simply the Best — Europe’s economy is strong, and consumer purchasing and business investment continue to grow, with development efforts focused on a wider range of biotech products and services for markets in both public and consumer-oriented healthcare. Individualized healthcare monitoring and services based on genetic profiling are accessible to most, and universities thrive in their production of basic research. Public investment has the support of legislation that seeks to balance the promotion of innovation while protecting consumers and healthcare providers.

Scenario 4. Should I Stay or Should I Go — Global protection of IPR and booming World 2 economies provide attractive opportunities for expansion outside Europe. The balance rests partly on the comparative regulatory and environmental challenges.

3 Business Implications

  • Business development and expansion in all of the scenarios suggest opportunities for global systems management and human-resource management; information technology provision and maintenance; materials transport services; legal and cultural advisory personnel; insurers; and manufacturing relocation specialists.
  • Greater human-resource planning could be needed given the global opportunities for employment. Salary and working conditions must remain competitive as World 2 countries improve their ability to develop and hire highly skilled engineering and technical staff.
  • Public and private economies in World 1 will have to accommodate the imbalances created by aging populations via process efficiencies that employ lower numbers of available workers. Global healthcare providers may need to adapt as school systems have done, with international recruitment of healthcare workers for geriatric care in World 1 countries, in order to address staffing shortages. At the same time, universities and training facilities will need to stay abreast of biotechnical and healthcare staffing needs in order to avert a shortage of trained domestic workers in these fields or obsolescence to the increasing use of robotics.