Building the Indian Pharmaceutical Innovation Ecosystem

Contributions of Indian pharma industry to economic and health outcomes

The Indian pharmaceutical industry has played a key role in improving the world health outcomes through its affordable and high-quality generic drugs. It has helped many countries in their fight against life-threatening diseases and has provided countless people with an improved quality of life. Indian pharma presently fulfills over 50% of the global vaccine demand, 40% of the US’s generic medicine demand and 25% of all the UK’s medicine demand1. India has also played a vital role in supplying lifesaving anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines-critical for controlling and preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS – to southern and western African regions2.

India’s pharmaceutical industry has also been instrumental in achieving the goal of a polio-free country. The accessibility and availability of affordable drugs has played a vital role in India’s progress on the reduction of national disease burden. This was driven by a decrease in infectious and associated diseases from a 61 percent disease burden in 1990 to 33 percent in 20163.In the coming years, India has the potential to become the global leader in the pharmaceutical sector.

Aspirations of Indian pharma industry

As we move towards the future, the healthcare and pharma industry in India will have to move up the value chain and expand its presence in the innovation space which continues to account for 2/3rd of the global pharmaceutical market value1. The Indian Pharmaceutical Industry in 2020 is at an inflection point like the Indian IT industry which blossomed in the 1990s-2000s. The pharma sector has the potential to grow to a value of USD 120-130 Bn by 20302 from its current value of USD 43 Billion The key drivers in achieving this growth will be building a strong, innovation-based pipeline with potential breakthroughs in next-generation products (non-generics) coupled with a strong growth in international markets such as USA and Europe and large, under-penetrated markets such as China and Japan.

Building Blocks of Innovation

Innovation is a long-term commitment requiring strong industry academia interactions and steady financial support. Sustained advancements in Innovation can be achieved by recognizing and boosting the essential drivers of growth in the ecosystem. Furthermore, it is essential to engage academia and industry in understanding existing challenges in promoting innovation. At its essence, pharmaceutical innovation in India requires the following:

 Favorable Policy Landscape: Policy makers should draft coherent policies and laws supporting and boosting scientific research and technology to promote an ecosystem of innovation. This will help facilitate the scaling up of the effectiveness of innovation1.

Enabling Regulatory Landscape: The regulatory landscape should be streamlined with robust guidelines, high predictability, increased capacity, and strong governance. Adequate and well-defined approval timelines, complete procedural transparency, and seamless processes should create a regulatory landscape conducive to innovation1.

 Robust Funding: It is imperative to encourage industry-related R&D and studies, backed by governmental monetary sanctions, funds, investments, policies, and subsidies along with significant VC / PE investments. Government organizations should help sustain the momentum on funding by increasing the public spend on R&D and promote innovation focused research in areas such as genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology etc1.

Strong Linkage Between Academia and Industry: Interactions with academic institutions to incorporate accurate syllabus, strong policy framework for Academia-Industry collaboration, increased support for outcome-oriented research and a greater focus on industry-oriented research. can help drive innovation talent in the pharma industry1.

 High Quality Infrastructure: Setting up of innovation hubs across the nation will help accelerate the innovation in the pharma industry. The innovation hubs should facilitate co-location of industry, academia, VCs, and incubators to create a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Incentives like tax exemptions and plug-and-play infrastructure will further fortify the infrastructure set-up1.

Innovation as a key to achieving Vision 2030

With an increase in global market share to ~7.0% by 2030, the Indian pharma market is expected to break into the top 5 markets by value globally, taking it from its current rank of 10th to become the world’s largest supplier of generic drugs2. This will enable the industry to push the net foreign exchange earnings to around USD 30-40 billion annually by 2030 from current levels of ~USD 10 billion2.

Moving up the value chain in Innovation can drive significant health and economic benefits for India. Development of drugs for India-specific ailments that do not get adequate global attention (e.g., Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Drug-resistant infections like NDM-1, Elephantiasis, Kala Azar) will help reduce India’s disease burden. Innovation will not only help in improving health conditions but also contributes to the nation’s GDP. R&D and Innovation will enable the creation of high skilled white collar jobs enabling differentiation vis-à-vis other developing economies apart from contributing an additional USD 10-12 Bn of exports every year for the economy from 2030.

Collective efforts from industry experts, academic institutions and government authorities can address the challenges in the ecosystem which are hindering India’s ability to unleash its innovation potential. If the Indian pharma industry continues to build in the innovative space and bridge the gap in the healthcare sector, it can dominate the international pharma market. These initiatives can also help augment the Indian Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ vision to “Discover and Make in India”.


  1. Discover in India.
  3. India State Level Disease Burden Study, 2016. Available at 0/fulltext




India pharma industry, Innovation, Pharmaceutical, Healthcare, Accessibility, Affordability, Funding, Regulatory Landscape, Academia, Health care index, Make in India, Aatmanirbhar, R&D, GDP, Employment, Infrastructure, Policy