New strategy to create medtech hub in Ireland unveiled

Ibec group warns traditional business model becoming obsolete because of smart tech

The Irish medtech industry employs 27,000 people, making Ireland the second-largest medtech employer in Europe on a per capita basis, second only the Switzerland

A new four-year strategy designed to consolidate Ireland's position as a hub for medtech companies has been unveiled by the Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA), the Ibec group that represents the sector.

IMDA director Sinead Keogh said the business model for medtech firms was fast becoming obsolete because of advancements in technology.

She cited the example of a diabetic syringe with a smart component which relays data to the patient’s physician, now standard issue in some countries.

“Companies are used to selling a traditional device, but now the selling is changing because they’re selling a service, they’re selling data as well as technology.”


Equally, she said the hospital model, in terms of procurement, will have to adapt as it will need to be able to evaluate innovative technologies and the data analytics that come with them.

The Irish medtech industry employs 27,000 people, making Ireland the second-largest medtech employer in Europe on a per capita basis, second only the Switzerland.

The State is also the second-largest exporter of medical technologies in Europe, with 18 of the world’s top 25 companies located in Ireland.

The IMDA’s strategy, which was launched Thursday night at an event in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, also identifies a “blurring of the lines” between sectors.

Increasingly medtech, ICT and pharma firms are collaborating to develop new drug-delivery systems. Dr Keogh said Ireland is in an ideal position to take advantage of this shift, given the size and footprint of the various sectors here.

“Another aspect of the IMDA’s strategy is realising the full potential of the cluster,” she said, noting the State and the medtech sector was still not leveraging the expertise in academia.

The group is urging the Government to adopt a host of measures that will nurture a stronger entrepreneurial culture.

The current capital gains tax regime should be used to better incentivise investment in start-ups, she said, noting the current metrics were too small.

Dr Keogh also wants to see the establishment of a small business innovation fund, whereby a certain percentage of the State's healthcare budget is set aside for start-ups and SMEs to get their products into the health system. Similar funds have proved "very successful" in the United Kingdom and the United States, she said.

Allowing start-ups attract prospective talent via stock options is still prohibitive because of the level of tax, she said.

The global medtech industry is expected to reach €475 billion in 2018, with an annual growth of 5.5 per cent over the next three years.

“Ireland should maximise opportunities with growing demands to become major contributors to global healthcare and the global economy,” the IMDA’s strategy said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times