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Making an innovative impact

The community of US firms has made a very significant contribution to Ireland’s international research standing

American companies in Ireland are involved in a range of cutting-edge research projects. Photograph: iStock

American companies in Ireland are involved in a range of cutting-edge research projects. Photograph: iStock


American companies in Ireland are involved in a range of cutting-edge research projects in areas such as biopharmaceuticals, semiconductors, software development, the internet of things, big data, and medical devices.

“US investment tends to have deep roots in Ireland,” says KPMG head of technology and media and fintech lead Anna Scally. “Many of the major players have been here decades and by definition they are innovative. For example, if one looks back to the nominees for the US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards, you’ll see a myriad of cases where R&D is being carried out in a wide range of sectors. These included medtech, telecoms and artificial intelligence to name just a few and they also have a reasonably strong geographic spread around the country. The rationale for this innovation investment happening here in Ireland varies – but common themes include the calibre of people, the cluster effect in various sectors, the tax environment and regulatory and fiscal stability.”

Abbott is a leader in the medical device field, with many of its leading products manufactured and developed in Ireland. The company’s vascular business in Clonmel manufactures a broad range of vascular devices, including stent delivery systems. Most recently, the team in Clonmel developed the Xience Sierra, which was designed to help doctors more easily treat people with difficult-to-treat blockages that involve multiple or totally blocked arteries or complications such as diabetes.

“The new system has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from cardiologists, as it makes it easier to access and unblock difficult-to-reach lesions,” says Abbott director Conor Murphy.

Leading role

Abbott’s Longford and Sligo diagnostic divisions played a leading role in the development of Alinity, a family of next-generation systems for immunoassay, clinical chemistry, point of care, haematology, blood and plasma screening and molecular diagnostics. The Alinity ci-series helps laboratories and hospital systems process more tests in less time, with fewer manual steps, all within half the size of current diagnostics systems.

“Developing more efficient laboratory diagnostic systems should reduce the time of diagnosis, helping doctors to focus on giving patients the best possible care,” says Murphy. “These efficiencies will help Abbott customers remain productive and competitive for years to come.”

“Ireland is competing way above its station when it comes to R&D and innovation,” says PwC tax partner Cathal Noone. “You see some really, really innovative and interesting work going on. The medical device area is really interesting. In other sectors, Irish R&D teams tend to be part of a global team where groups in Asia, Europe and the US hand over projects to each other during the day as part of a seamless 24-hour operation. In medical devices, however, the Irish operation has control of the project from ideation right the way through the three- or four-year development process until it gets FDA approval. It’s very exciting to see the physical device in your hand at the end of the process.”

These research efforts have a very significant impact on the economy, Noone believes. “We try to say we have a knowledge economy here,” he says. “By and large, the drive towards this knowledge economy has come from FDI companies and the expertise and knowledge they have brought into the economy. They have created a pool of knowledge and expertise here which would have been very hard to do without them.”