The Role of Research in Industry Growth
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
In light of the current economic climate, there has been significant discussion about the viability of the contact lens and related ophthalmic markets. It seems as though I've been fielding more and more questions on this topic. I continue to have discussions with practitioners, our colleagues in industry, and those who work in the financial field about growth or stagnation in our field. Without question, all of the parties with whom I have interacted are optimistic that our field is growing and will continue to grow. In fact, you believe this as well.
In January of this year, we reported in our 2008 Annual Report that industry analysts expect to see the U.S. contact lens market grow 5-to-6 percent this year, while predictions of worldwide growth were reported at 8-to-9 percent. The ophthalmic sector was reported to be "up nearly 145 percent" over the last five years. Likewise, most respondents to our annual survey felt that patient traffic flow was "about the same" or "modestly busier" compared with the previous year. Looking ahead, 62 percent of respondents felt that their overall contact lens practice growth will increase in the next year, whereas 34 percent felt it will stay the same and only 4 percent of respondents felt that it will decrease.
Why, then, did I choose to write about this topic? I am very fortunate to attend many clinical and scientific meetings. While many of these meetings are inspiring, some are certainly not as good as others in terms of clinically relevant scientific information. I find this concerning as I believe that clinically relevant scientific innovation is critical for the continued growth of contact lenses each year. While the numbers I presented above paint a welcome picture in these bleak economic times, I strongly believe that we need to continually consider new and different ways of doing things. The scope of such innovations may be incremental or more radical in nature. Regardless, they are critical to the growth of contact lenses. Please continue to support and to show your interest in the hard work done by our colleagues who are involved in research and development. I believe that their work is the lifeblood of the growth of contact lenses worldwide.