Building on Ireland's MedTech Success to Drive Future Growth
posted 3rd March 2023
Lorraine Eagleton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Avem gives her view below, on what the future of Irelands medical technology industry might look like.
Ireland's medical device cluster has global significance, punching well above its weight in terms of geographical and population size. This has been the case now for decades.
Technologies we couldn't imagine 30 years ago are now commonplace, words like digitalisation are driving business strategies, and there is increasing competition from lower cost-based regions of the world.
How can Ireland's MedTech industry continue its strong upward growth trajectory?
The MedTech industry in Ireland is pivoting and reacting to changing market conditions, while also leading the way in innovation and new product development. Ambition in the industry is unquestionable, so the future looks promising.
The Irish MedTech Sector Summed Up in 10 Stats
1. 450 - the number of companies in the Irish MedTech industry.
2. 42,000 - the number of people employed in the Irish MedTech industry
3. Largest - Ireland is Europe's largest per capita employer of medical
4. Second largest - Ireland is Europe's second-largest exporter of medical
5. 90 percent - nine of the world's top 10 medical device companies have
operations in Ireland
6. €12.6 billion - the value of Ireland's annual MedTech exports.
7. Over 100 - the number of countries Ireland exports medical devices to.
8. 80 percent - the number of stents used across the world that are
manufactured in Ireland.
9. 50 percent - the number of ventilators used in the world's acute hospitals
that are manufactured in Ireland.
10. Number one - Ireland is the world's number one exporter of contact
A Unique Ecosystem Driving Success
There have been many factors over the years that have contributed to the success of Ireland's MedTech industry. One of the main drivers today is the well-established and unique MedTech ecosystem.
That ecosystem comprises a broad range of organisations and stakeholders, including multinational corporations, SMEs, indigenous Irish companies, investors, third-level education institutions, and the Irish government through organisations like the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, and Skillnet.
This unique ecosystem encourages, facilitates, and supports the key ingredients for success:
- Innovation mindset, particularly through the growth of MedTech R&D in Ireland to complement manufacturing.
- Collaborative approach, such as through strong connections between medical device companies and the universities that are educating tomorrow's workforce.
- Convergence potential between MedTech, technology, and pharmaceuticals given Ireland also has strong tech and pharma industries. This convergence potential is leading to innovations in areas like digital health and combination devices.
- Talent base for Irish MedTech professionals in addition to an ever-growing number of people born outside the country who now call Ireland home.
Looking to the future, it is clear health care is changing in a number of significant areas. Populations are ageing in many parts of the world, and there are growing pressures on health care provision. Patient and user expectations are also changing, as are the regulations that govern the MedTech industry.
Technologies are driving change, too, with an increasing use of data and technologies that utilise the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
There are also areas of transformational change on the horizon. This includes Industry 4.0 technologies and the digitalisation of workflows, as well as the growing trend towards the personalisation of healthcare, where parts of the industry could transition from mass production to mass customisation.
Challenges Facing the Irish MedTech Sector
The MedTech sector in Ireland is acutely aware of the above changes taking place in healthcare, and it is at the forefront of shaping the industry's future in many areas.
There are also manufacturing cost challenges, which include competition, from low cost countries.
The introduction of the new EU MDR is also a challenge. A lot of the success enjoyed by the MedTech industry in Ireland, particularly in the strong growth period during the 1990s, came from foreign direct investment by US-based multinationals. They came to Europe because products could be approved and launched faster than in the US, and they came to Ireland because of its low-cost base. These benefits no longer exist.
Adapting, Innovating, and Building on Success
There are strong indications that Ireland is successfully adapting to both changes and challenges, while continuing to innovate and build on its strengths. We can look to recent investment announcements as examples of a continued commitment to Ireland as a global hub for the medical device industry:
- Abbott Ireland is investing $450 million in a new site in Kilkenny that will employ an additional 1,000 people, increasing its workforce to 6,000
- Boston Scientific is investing $100 million to expand its Galway operations and increase its workforce by 300.
Leaders in the industry are also looking to maintain Ireland's growth through a strategic approach. For example, The Irish MedTech Association's 2022 report The Global MedTech Hub 2025 (click image to download copy) outlined four strategic pillars that will facilitate continued growth:
- Innovation with impact
- Talent to thrive
- Excellence through collaboration
- Competitiveness of the ecosystem
Innovation, R&D, and new product development are going to be the key drivers of growth in the industry as Ireland looks to continue to diversify across the entire medical device value chain. After all, the typical lifecycle of a medical device product is 18-24 months after which it is replaced by an improved version. There is no time to stand still.
Again, there are strong indications that Ireland is moving in the right direction in this key strategic area. For example, per capita, Ireland ranks fifth in the world for medical patents.
The focus over the coming years has to be a continuation of this effort, where innovation is fostered, encouraged, and supported by all stakeholders, including the government.
Avem will be exhibiting at Medical Technology Ireland in September, on stands 53A, 53B & 53C.