Featured Article 01 Feb 2012

Feb 1st 2012
Silicon Republic

In 2011 the medical technology industry rolled out investment plans worth over €170m and announced 875 jobs, the industry said today as it revealed a new four year plan to create more jobs and bring in more investment.

According to the Irish Medical Device Association (IMDA), a business sector in IBEC, which published its four year strategy (2012 -2015) for the med-tech sector today, med tech companies in Ireland export €7.2bn worth of product annually and employ 25,000 people - the highest number of people working in the industry in any country in Europe, per head of population.

Recent reports published by IBEC show that during 2012 approximately half of all medical technology companies in Ireland expect to recruit additional employees and two thirds of medical technology companies expect turnover to increase during in the next five years. 

The ongoing investment and job creation reflects the vibrancy of the medical technology sector in Ireland according to Paraic Curtis, Incoming Chairman of the IMDA.

“The investment of approximately €170m is across a wide range of development, manufacturing and R&D projects. In total these investments will create almost 875 jobs in the coming years. 2012 has also started brightly," Curtis explained.

Med tech sector poised for rapid convergence
"The industry is poised for rapid convergence between technologies which will result in more collaboration and new products in the drug device and smart device development," he explained.

Within the report, the IMDA has identified a number of key opportunities for development over the next four years; including the potential to boost capacity, adapt to the reduction in global healthcare spend, improve Irish clinical research infrastructure and develop a culture of commercialisation in Irish universities.
Central to all of this will be the ability to enhance high-level engineering and scientific skills.

“In weathering the global economic downturn, the med-tech sector has become more productive, innovative and competitive, and will undoubtedly be a key driver of Ireland's export-led growth in coming years. 

“Having said that, the next four years will not be without challenges with global healthcare expenditure coming under mounting pressure the challenge will be to demonstrate technologies which add value and efficiency.  Given the industry's existing capacity to adapt, it is in a strong position to address these challenges," Curtis concluded.

Medical device inward investment
Ireland has the highest concentration of medical device businesses anywhere in the world outside of the US and to give you an indication of the kind of energy in the sector the year 2012 began with the news that 200 new jobs will be created by pharmaceutical giant Allergan as it invests €350m in its Mayo site to expand R&D and manufacturing capabilities.

The news came hot on the heels of an announcement by Cook Medical, which is investing €16.5m in an R&D operation in Limerick, where it employs 650 people.

Speaking at the launch of the IMDA's 2012-2015 strategy Barry O'Leary, CEO of IDA Ireland said: "Ireland is very much leading the field when it comes to medical technology. 

“Seventeen of the world's top twenty-five medical technology companies have invested significantly in Ireland and there is a pattern of indigenous companies emerging and competing internationally. 

“The government has identified the medical technology sector as one of the key drivers of industrial growth for the future and provides a wide range of supports to encourage and foster this growth. 

“It is clear from the trends in the sector that Ireland is well placed as a global player in the medical technology sector and will be a major contributor to global healthcare and the global economy in years to come."

Med tech start-up culture
Entrepreneurship is also key to the future of the sector in Ireland and the local industry is characterised by management teams who would have began their careers in Digital Equipment Corporation.

Explaining the emphasis on entrepreneurship, Sharon Higgins, Director of the IMDA said: "Nurturing entrepreneurs and developing a strong culture of entrepreneurship is critical to the future success of med-tech in Ireland. To this end the IMDA will enable medical devices entrepreneurs to access the expertise of experienced IMDA members.

“This will be done by developing a practical framework whereby medical device entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs can avail of mentoring supports from experienced IMDA members with established ethical guidelines to ensure trust and confidentiality on both sides," Higgins said.

Key facts about med tech in Ireland

  • There are 250 med-tech companies in Ireland
  • 50pc - The percentage of indigenous Irish med-tech firms
  • No 1 - Ireland's global ranking for inward investment
  • €7.2bn - The value of annual Irish med-tech exports
  • 25,000 - The number of people employed in the industry
  • 50pc - The percentage of ventilators worldwide in acute hospitals that are Irish made
  • 30m - The number of people with diabetes that rely on an injectable device manufactured in Ireland
  • 33pc - The percentage of the world's contact lenses manufactured in Ireland
  • 5- The number of clinical research facilities translating knowledge into patient care

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