Several days ago the DAX, Germany’s benchmark stock index, switched over to listing 40 stocks instead of 30. This means that the Frankfurt-based economic barometer has caught up with other major indexes whose breadth and depth had already included more companies. By the same token, the new DAX 40 includes the medtech industry more fully than in the past – a reflection as well of the industry’s global significance, which became even more evident during the pandemic. Because half of the humankind still has little or no access to modern medicine, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries have a great deal of growth potential, strong social relevance, and a great responsibility.
Three and a half years after it went public, Siemens Healthineers – Europe’s largest medical technology company – has arrived on Germany’s benchmark stock index, the DAX. Our team experiences that as a reaffirmation of our achievements, which often remain behind the scenes – for example, in clinical laboratories, radiology departments, and radiotherapy vaults. In contrast to most other companies in the industrial healthcare industry, whose products and medications aim for a direct effect on the human body, we work on the healthcare systems themselves to make them more efficient, more effective, and safer for doctors, patients, and society.
The pandemic provided us all with a vivid demonstration that the healthcare system is part of every country’s critical infrastructure – and it focused a bright spotlight on where we need to improve. I believe that Germany has come through these past months relatively well: But we could do better, for example, in the urgently needed digitalization of medicine. That process has gained acceptance and become more widespread during the crisis. We should make the most of this momentum to boldly pursue more improvements, such as investing in modern technology – and also in staff by showing appreciation for them, enhancing their qualifications, and easing their workloads.
The basic drivers of the healthcare industry are unchanged, even after the pandemic. The world’s population is growing. Life expectancies are increasing. More and more people want to live longer, healthier lives. A rising global middle class can pay more attention to its health, and it can afford the modern technologies available to support it. The new composition of the DAX reflects those trends. Since September 20, it’s included almost twice as many companies in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector as before; their number has grown from four to seven. All together, these seven companies invest some 10 billion euros per year in research and development and therefore in increasing their competitiveness around the world.
German research and development’s competitiveness is well-positioned. The country’s laboratories achieved landmarks like the first diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus and the first vaccine to receive emergency approval from the WHO. And the other numbers are also impressive. The healthcare industry and its roughly 7.4 million employees account for almost nine percent of all Germany’s exports. It generates one out of every eight euros in gross value added, and every euro generated by the healthcare industry generates an additional 0.77 cents in the overall economy. The nearly 13,000 companies on the industrial side of healthcare (medical technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology) have about one million employees in Germany – more than the country’s vital automotive industry, which has about 800,000 employees. And that major industry is now facing a radical transition from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor, as demand for e-mobility rises worldwide.
The demand for innovative medical products and solutions for the healthcare system is also on the rise. Many societies have realized that a properly functioning healthcare system isn’t a cost factor but rather an essential guarantee of quality of life, prosperity, and security. Physicians, caregivers, and patients have learned that digitalization in healthcare delivery – from everyday contact-tracing apps and telehealth during quarantine to digital assistants for routine tasks and remote diagnoses by distant experts – will still have great value, even after the pandemic, for improving access to up-to-date, precise medicine.
What all of us in this industry have in common is our strong motivation to work together to improve health and life for as many people as possible. Each of us contributes different talents to that goal, which nourishes not only our industry’s innovative strength but also its powerful attraction for both young, curious colleagues and more seasoned veterans. The industry’s relevance and wealth of ideas are underscored by the fact that two out of the three companies that have been nominated for this year’s German Future Award, sponsored by the Federal President, are committed to innovations in global health: BioNTech and Siemens Healthineers.