By Liz White, UT staffLondon-Asia's emergence as a site for producing medical devices at low cost is a source of both concern and opportunity for European medical device companies, says market research group Frost & Sullivan. European companies face losing valuable market share, F&S warned, in a 31 Jan announcement of a new study. Meanwhile the trend offers opportunities for European medical product makers to expand into Asia. But, cautions the research group, they will have to move fast to take advantage of early growth opportunities."European medical device companies looking to capitalise on the advantages offered by the Asian manufacturing industry-such as lower cost, skilled labour-are considering outsourcing, partnering with or even relocating manufacturing facilities to this region," according to Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Claire Staniforth."Shifting manufacturing facilities to Asia could also promote better penetration of the Asian medical devices market," she added. While some European companies have set up plants in Asia, benefiting from low operating costs, distributing products back to Europe has high transport costs. But the shift also leaves these device makers "well-placed to increase penetration of the massively underserved Asian market," the report emphasises. China and India are the favourite destinations for production, with both countries showing increasing awareness of the need to conform to international manufacturing guidelines and standards, F&S said."China has a much higher relative appeal as investment in infrastructure and global foreign direct investment are high," said Staniforth. "However, there is a greater availability of skilled labour in India, which could sway companies into investing in manufacture there instead."And F&S says that some European companies are forming alliances with well-established Asian companies. Such local firms are likely to have good material supply relationships in place, so the major logistical task is shipping of finished products either to a holding warehouse close to the point of sale or to the customers themselves.For more information on the F&S report, "Impact of Low-cost Asian Manufacturing on the European Medical Devices Markets (B671-54)," see www.frost.com. "