Health industries Weathering the Storm of a Global Pandemic


Hannah Niederbuchner, Cluster Manager Health, German-Australian Chamber of Industry & Commerce

Almost 18 months after Australia identified the first COVID-19 cases, the country has shown resilience and undergone many fast-paced developments in the health sector.  

With Australia’s borders still closed and key industries struggling with the impact of missing cross-border movements, the Australian economy weathered the storm, increasing by a steady 3.1 per cent / 3.4 per cent in the last two quarters, with growth rates across various health segments. For example, there was an increase of 2.7 per cent in telehealth services, 5 per cent in pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and 4.7 per cent in medical equipment manufacturing. 

The Australian Health Sector is worth approximately $5.7 billion. Healthcare is the largest employing industry in Australia, with 1.7 million employees. Health expenditures per capita equalled $7,485 in 2017-18, making Australia one of the world’s top 10 countries in terms of per capita expenditure.  

Notably, Australia relies heavily on imports to cover the market demand for medical technology products: 85 per cent of medical technology devices are imported, with Germany being one of the main suppliers.  

Despite non-negligible struggles and disruptions such as forced pauses of clinical trials, COVID-19 also accelerated change across the health ecosystem and sped up adaptation to a new global reality.  

The Australian society faces internal pressures driven by: 

  • rising chronic disease rates,
  • an aging population, 
  • inequitable access to services,  
  • gaps in the highly casualised workforce, infrastructure and across the clinical supply chain, 
  • and gaps in the highly casualised workforce, infrastructure and across the clinical supply chain. 

However, the pandemic response has highlighted opportunities in the Australian Health Industry, particularly telehealth and virtual care, leveraging technology to support patients and practitioners.   

A temporary change in the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) for telehealth arrangements has enabled widespread adoption, welcomed with broad support from the Australian public. A study by the University of Sydney found that 62 per cent of respondents rated their telehealth experience as good as or better than traditional in-person medical appointments.  

At the end of last year, the German Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, in cooperation with Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), held a webinar exploring the significant opportunities in Digital Health, with guest speakers from Coviu and our Premium Partner SAP. The online event highlighted the positive impact of telehealth platforms and digital applications in the health and hospital setting.  

Federal funding made available by the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, open for medical product manufacturing projects as one of the National Manufacturing Priorities, further supports developments in the industry. Furthermore, to name just a few examples, the Entrepreneurs’ Programme grant stream recently awarded matched funding to two innovative Australian medical manufacturers, helping them complete clinical trials and establish local manufacturing facilities. Governmental funding and grant programs are continuously strengthening Australia as a lucrative target market for industry players.  

Another boost to the industry came from the Federal Budget 2021, with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announcing funding for essential services, including mental health, disability support and providing $17.7 billion to overhaul and reform the aged care sector. In addition to that, another $503 million will go into transforming digital health in Australia. 

The remarkable diversity and continuous innovations highlight the resilience and fast adaptation of the sector, leaving us excited for the future of Health in Australia. The German-Australian Chamber of Commerce is taking the lead in fostering the bilateral relationship.   

The Chamber is reinforcing ties with its Australian member companies and promoting the Australian Health market to German small and medium-sized enterprises across the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences, medical equipment and devices, aged care and Hospitals sectors. 

Following our vision to be a trusted partner, enabler and accelerator of sustainable business relations between Australia and Germany, we are creating value for our members, customers and government stakeholders by increasing bilateral business opportunities.  

This comes as a part of the Chamber’s new strategy to focus on four key industries that were identified as especially promising for both countries: clean energy, mining and resources, food and beverage, and health. 

By establishing these four clusters, the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce exercises a targeted approach to encourage bilateral industry-focused projects, further support our members and facilitate market entry for German companies. 

Our members benefit from our increased industry activity and policy advisory work, presenting a wide-reaching network. Furthermore, we facilitate topical events as well as targeted brand exposure and provide dedicated key account management. 

Alongside our four industry clusters, the Chamber has a dedicated customer success team focusing on key markets like automotive, machinery and equipment, construction, Smart City, waste and water management, to only name a few. We combine membership benefits and market entry to create bilateral value for the Chamber-wide network.  

This strategy allows us to develop growth initiatives in the strategic overlap of both countries and foster ample opportunities for manufacturing industries.   

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