Powering India’s pharmaceutical innovation: The need for an industry-academia collaboration

Gopalakrishnan Narasimhan, Partner and Director - Africa, Kaizen Institute

India, synonymous with the “pharmacy of the world” has rightfully earned the title, owing to its remarkable contribution in supplying 20 per cent of the global generic medicines, along with 60 per cent of the total vaccine demand worldwide. 

From the Covid-19 pandemic to the floods in Sri Lanka in 2017, India has made significant contributions in assisting several nations, irrespective of geographies – especially in terms of providing low-cost vaccines and other medical aid.

The industry’s growth is also evidenced by its global stature, ranking third in terms of pharmaceutical production by volume. Concurrently, the Indian pharma segment has witnessed steady growth with a CAGR of 9.43 per cent, projected to further reach its ambitious goal of touching US$130 billion by 2030 and US$450 billion by 2047, envisaged in the ‘India@100’ vision.

Major export partners such as the US, China, the UK, Russia, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and Turkey, are a testament to India’s extensive execution of focused strategies. Further, India continues to have the largest share of USFDA-compliant companies outside of the US, further indicating our strengthened stance in the pharma industry.

Despite such tremendous growth – thanks to the consistent increase in flexibility in investments, coupled with the growing manufacturing proficiency – there remains room for us to excel in the realm of research and development to further facilitate our stance on the global stage.

Existing situation and challenges

Contributing to the global pharma demands through its massive manufacturing of generic drugs, OTC medicines, biologics, and vaccines, alongside our robust pool of over 3,000 pharma companies and manufacturing network, our global share in the pharma market can be attributed to the adoption of several initiatives, including flexible investment routes and enhancing infrastructural capabilities.

With 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) allowed in the pharmaceutical sector, paired with the concerted efforts at the government level, such as the Strengthening the Pharmaceutical Industry (SPI), 2022 further bolsters our pharma segment to enhance our infrastructure capabilities, improves production facilities to meet national and international standards and enhance knowledge of the overall industry to facilitate efficiency. 

On the other hand, however, there remains a massive gap in the industry’s research and development segment. Studies indicate that while the Indian pharmaceutical academia emphasises theoretical knowledge, the lack of an overall hands-on approach restricts aspiring pharmaceutical professionals from excelling and enhancing the country’s pharma landscape. 

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to exponentially grow, the lack of skilled personnel disrupts our progress to reach its full potential. The deficit not only creates a vacuum in the pharmaceutical employment market but also hinders the innovative process of developing newer, more efficient products to fortify our pharmaceutical sector. This vacuum can be felt across both manufacturing and development segments, critically endangering the demand and supply of talent in the industry. 

Reports suggest that the median cost-to-company (CTC) across the pharmaceutical segments is similar to the trends observed in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry – indicating the pharma industry’s willingness to offer higher compensations in the ever-evolving, competitive market. 

With the persistent growth of the industry, coupled with the urgency to bolster our research and development, closing the industry-academia gap becomes imperative – now more than ever.


Way forward

A strengthened collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and pharmaceutical academia is imperative for the industry’s consistent growth. For this, a two-pronged approach is necessary.

Firstly, at the legislative level, robust interventions are necessary to strengthen academic endeavours. Such interventions are presently underway, as suggested by the National Pharmaceutical Policy, 2023, and the implementation of the National Education Policy, 2020, which aim to promote practical experience to strike a balance between theoretical and practical knowledge of the industry.

Secondly, the co-utilisation of research facilities and resources by academic institutions and industrial partners may present a strategic approach to optimizing resource allocation and minimizing operational expenditures. Additionally, this would not only foster collaboration and reduce the divide between these entities but also largely result in the sustained growth of the industry, facilitating aspiring pharmaceutical professionals in gaining monumental industry exposure and experience. 

While manufacturing remains a vital component, achieving long-term success necessitates a more holistic approach. Leveraging the expertise of academia, researchers, and their robust R&D capabilities would only truly enable us to successfully navigate the market trends, strategise cost-effective solutions, and streamline the entire pharmaceutical industry as we continue to pave the way towards greater accomplishments.

Gopalakrishnan NarasimhanIndian Pharma Marketpharmaceutical industry
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