One thing has become clear from the last two years: Wellbeing is a predicate for productivity and prosperity. Covid, like no other disease before it, has demonstrated to us how intricately public health is linked to the global economy.
This lesson has put the spotlight on the healthcare industry in a whole new way, with investors, governments and institutions focused on the vital importance of delivering effective solutions now and for our shared future. In Greece, the potential of the country’s life sciences sector is enormous. And with foreign investors already active in everything from pharmaceuticals to medical services, from MedTech to R&D, the country has the ability to exploit this potential. The only thing missing is a strategy.
Greece is already a regional hub for pharmaceutical production: each year the roughly one hundred pharmaceutical companies in Greece export some €3 billion in medicines, mostly to neighboring markets in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The country is the site of international clinical trials, boasts one of the leading and award-winning diagnostic labs in the region, hosts several research centers and has one of the highest ratios of medical professionals and doctors worldwide. It is also one of six European logistics hubs for distributing medical supplies.
In the past few years, the private sector has honed in on the potential of Greece’s life sciences sector. International pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has established two global hubs in Greece, one for R&D, and the other to provide business and support services to the company’s clients worldwide. A new biotech science park is being planned near Athens and several international drug companies – like Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim – have invested heavily in their Greek production facilities with an eye to exporting more.
At the same time, the prospects for Greece’s health and life sciences sector extend far beyond pharmaceuticals. Life sciences tech companies represent one-third of Greek start-ups, while major international investors – most notably the giant private equity fund CVC – have been investing in Greek hospitals and medical centers: the fund now controls three of Greece’s leading private hospital groups. Other private investors have taken a stake in one of Greece’s leading diagnostic centers.
Recently, Greece has also taken steps to attract retirees and medical tourists, orienting itself more toward Europe’s €4 trillion Silver Economy. The medical and pharmaceutical infrastructure exists, and Greece offers general wellness: a mild climate and natural springs, healthy living and a quality lifestyle, the world famous Mediterranean diet and the notable longevity of the Greeks.
Taking all these points together – and drawing on the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic –Greece is poised to become a regional leader, and potentially a world leader, in the health and life sciences sector. What’s needed is a cohesive national strategy.
In late 2020, the Greek government put together a special committee to do just that. So now it’s time to translate plans into action. How to do that, with insight from health industry business leaders, is something we’ll be looking at this July at the InvestGR Forum. Because, as we learned from the coronavirus pandemic, health and wellbeing are the foundation of humanity’s − and Greece’s − future prosperity.
Andreas Yannopoulos is the CEO of Public Affairs and Networks and Founder of the InvestGR Forum.