What Happened to Outsourcing in Asia?

The industry may not be ready for India and China as regulatory issues emerge.
Jul 01, 2013
Volume 26, Issue 7

Eric Langer
Over the past few years, China and India have been the up-and-coming destinations for international outsourcing of biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Last year, industry research pointed to China and India as the industry's top potential destinations for offshoring over the next five years, which put them ahead of traditional biomanufacturing hubs in the US and Western Europe. China was seen as a favorite likely destination for both US and European respondents to prior studies, with India close behind.

In BioPlan Associates' 10th Annual Report and Survey of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Capacity and Production, however, that initial enthusiasm appears to have diminished (1). Of the more than 25 countries identified as potential destinations for international outsourcing, India fell to the fourth spot among all respondents, with only 14% of respondents indicating there was a likelihood or strong likelihood that they would consider outsourcing production there in the next five years. Surprisingly, that was a more positive result than for China, which was cited by just 10.6% of respondents, putting it in the ninth spot, behind countries such as Austria and Australia.

Figure 1: Destinations for international outsourcing of biomanufacturing (all respondents). (FIGURE IS COURTESY OF AUTHOR)
This year, the US took the top position for biopharmaceutical outsourcing, with 26.3% of global, non-US respondents, ranking it as the top destination. This ranking likely reflects European companies' plans, as respondents were asked to indicate potential international destinations (see Figure 1). Next on the list were Germany and Singapore, each indicated to be a "likelihood" destination by 15.8% of all respondents. Beyond those top three countries stood a group of countries (India, UK, Austria, and Ireland), each receiving the nod from approximately 14% of respondents.

As noted previously, the US' position atop the rankings this year is reflective of the substantial European presence in this industry. When the respondent sample is narrowed to Western Europeans only, the US is easily the favored destination for outsourcing in the next five years cited by 35.3% of respondents, up slightly from last year's 31.8%. After the US, Europeans are most likely to look in their own backyard, with strong consideration shown for Germany (29.4% of respondents cited in 2013, from 22.7% in 2012) and Belgium (23.5% in 2013, from 22.7% in 2012).

European responses were evaluated indicating more positive consideration for country destinations as either a "strong likelihood" or "likelihood." The US was again the top response (23.5%), with European countries following: Germany and Ireland (each at 17.7%), followed by Belgium, France, and Sweden.

This year India was a consideration for outsourcing by just 11.8% of European respondents, down from last year's 22.7%. China's fall has been more precipitous: it was indicated to be a country in consideration by only 5.9% of respondents, down from last year's leading 36.4%.

US-based respondents are more favorable to Singapore, handing it the top position, with 32.3% of respondents considering it a "potential" destination. After Singapore came Germany (29%), followed by the UK, China, and India.

This list suggests that US companies appear to be seeking traditional biomanufacturing hubs rather than emerging ones at this time. Compared to last year, respondents in the US demonstrated a heightened potential for outsourcing to some destinations in Western Europe, such as Germany (29% vs. 25%), the UK (26% vs. 22%), Scotland (16% vs. 6%), and Italy (13% vs. 6%). Respondents, however, cooled on China (26% vs. 34%) and India (23% vs. 28%).

lorem ipsum