Supporting an innovative life sciences ecosystem in Japan

September 28, 2020


Supporting an innovative life sciences ecosystem in Japan_EN

September 28, 2020

Jesse Quigley Jones

Managing editor

Jesse is a managing editor for Economist Impact based in Asia, with a focus on healthcare.

Based in Hong Kong, Jesse has been working in Asia for over 10 years. Prior to the Economist Impact, he held roles in medical education, scientific publications and medical communications, working in multinational biopharmaceutical companies with a focus in vaccines and biologic medicines. Jesse has extensive experience researching and collating medical information and working with healthcare professionals and patient organisations to develop insight-driven communications programmes.

Jesse holds a BSc in Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Leeds. His editorial interests include the policy response to emerging public health issues and patient advocacy in infectious diseases.


Medical innovation in the life sciences requires a holistic policy and market access environment that supports everything from basic science to product research and development (R&D) and, ultimately, commercialization. Though North America and Europe have historically led innovation in life sciences, Japan has been a leading contributor from Asia for decades. However, emerging life science sectors in South Korea, and more recently China, are quickly catching up after investing heavily in infrastructure, human capital, and R&D, as well as enacting national policies to further bolster their life sciences ecosystems.

This analysis by The Economist Intelligence Unit explores the enabling factors creating a supportive environment for innovation in the life sciences sector in Japan, benchmarked against three other countries: the US, South Korea, and China.

Overall, while Japan is still producing life science innovation at a high level, it appears to be stagnating while the US remains ahead, and regional competitors are either catching up to or surpassing Japan.

Our research identified several opportunities for Japan to build on early progress in fostering an innovative life sciences ecosystem and remain competitive on the global stage. Priority areas that should be addressed include:


  • Maintaining and expanding a strong workforce
  • Investing in R&D and incentivising business enterprise
  • Preserving strong intellectual property (IP) protection while enhancing enforcement and transparency
  • Increasing encouragement of technology transfer and commercialisation
  • Ensuring health policies are consistent with those promoting new products


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