A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Med in Ireland a showcase for the best of medtech innovation

The Enterprise Ireland-organised event saw 89 Irish medical technology companies meet with more than 300 international blue-chip company buyers from 40 countries

Deirdre Glenn, Enterprise Ireland, Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business Pat Breen and Stephen Creaner, executive director, Enterprise Ireland at the Med in Ireland conference in October 2019. Photograph: Orla Murray/ SON

Deirdre Glenn, Enterprise Ireland, Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business Pat Breen and Stephen Creaner, executive director, Enterprise Ireland at the Med in Ireland conference in October 2019. Photograph: Orla Murray/ SON


Med In Ireland, the high point in Ireland’s medtech industry calendar, took place at the RDS in Dublin on Thursday, October 10th, last. Now in its 14th year, the Enterprise Ireland-organised event saw 89 Irish medical technology companies meet with more than 300 international blue-chip company buyers from 40 countries.

The medtech sector in Ireland employs 40,000 people, making Ireland Europe’s largest employer in sector on a per capita basis. Ireland is also one of the top five clusters for medtech production globally, and in 2018, Enterprise Ireland recorded 7 per cent export growth to €1.73 billion for Irish-owned companies.

“Med in Ireland is a great opportunity for international organisations to engage with Ireland’s existing and emerging leaders across the design, research, development, prototyping, manufacture and marketing of highly innovative medical products and services,” said Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business Pat Breen.

“This major event has been going from strength to strength every year,” he added. “Ireland exports 80 per cent of what we produce in medtech and we think globally. Some 25 per cent of the world’s population with diabetes rely on injectable kits made in Ireland; 38 per cent of the world’s contact lenses are made here; 50 per cent of the ventilators used around the world are manufactured here; and we produce 80 per cent of the stents used worldwide. It’s great to see innovative Irish companies here today signing contracts and playing their part on the global stage.”

According to Breen, Ireland offers a very good environment for the industry to grow and thrive. “We have a unique industry ecosystem in this country,” he said. “We have very strong indigenous and FDI sectors and a world-class research base. The clinical community also has a very strong industry focus. All elements are collaborating to help grow the sector from strength to strength.”

Enterprise Ireland executive director Stephen Creaner also emphasised the role played by collaboration. “The industry is growing at 15 per cent per annum and has effectively doubled since 2012,” he said. “Ireland’s world-class innovation and research ecosystem is now driving global market penetration for Irish-made products and services. Enterprise Ireland has put a focus on facilitating successful partnerships, between indigenous Irish companies, globally reputable healthcare systems and medtech manufacturers.”

Enterprise Ireland helps medtech companies to start up, innovate, scale and to export internationally. “Med In Ireland is a key part of our strategy in terms of market diversification and innovation and the medtech sector is at the forefront of diversification, particularly into the eurozone,” Creaner continued. “We are seeing increased collaboration between multinationals and local companies to meet supply chain challenges. These strategic partnerships highlight the integrated nature of the sector.”

Promoting the innovation agenda

Promoting the innovation agenda is a key aspect of Enterprise Ireland’s activity in the area, he added. “Product innovation has been the focus in recent years while process innovation like Lean manufacturing and so on has also been important. From 2020 onwards, we will be ramping up product, process and business model innovation as the research shows that companies that pull all these levers at the same time perform best.”

One of the key elements of the event was the MedTech Innovation Arena, where visitors could discover Ireland’s best up-and-coming pre-commercial companies. “Guests can also see the wide-ranging support system that drives the success of these companies, from funding to collaboration with the research community,” Creaner said. “This zone will highlight the vital role played by research and innovation in Ireland and how it is at the forefront of indigenous innovating Irish firms.”

A number of significant company announcements were also made at Med In Ireland 2019. Complete Laboratory Solutions (CLS), Ireland’s largest privately-owned contract laboratory, is to create 100 new jobs in Galway over the next two years. The company currently employs 191 people, serving a portfolio of more than 600 Irish and international clients.

Swiftqueue Technologies in partnership with MOBIA Technology Innovations have won an open competition to deliver a digital health transformation for hospitals in Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

Bray-based engineering company Key Plastics and the Rotunda Hospital have combined their expertise to produce and launch The Umbifunnel – a unique, purpose-designed, cord blood collection device which comprises of a collection funnel and stand. The Umbifunnel removes the need for needles and syringes, eliminating the risk of needle stick injuries and reducing the risk of the blood sample clotting.

Design Partners is making an investment of €500,000 in innovative wearable technologies to deliver next-generation medical devices and healthcare experiences.

Ireland’s leading microbiology diagnostics company Serosep Ltd has received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for its EntericBio Dx Assay, as well as an agreement on distribution throughout the US.

The other announcement was from Nova Leah, a leading cybersecurity solutions provider for medical device manufacturers. The company has achieved certification to ISO 9001 in recognition of its commitment to quality management systems and ISO 27001 for information security management.

The event also featured a panel discussion chaired by Chris Coburn, chief innovation officer with Partners Healthcare, the largest academic healthcare research institute in the US. A key area of focus for the panel was best-practice collaboration.

‘A significant advantage’

“We have an R&D centre in our Athlone facility,” said Teleflex chief executive Liam Kelly. “We have been able to engage with NUI Galway, Cork University Hospital, and universities in Northern Ireland to get immediate access to clinical expertise. You get that in Ireland. You get the competencies working together. You would get tied up in red tape if you tried to do that in the US. That’s a significant advantage for Ireland.”

“One of our biggest products for the future is a diamond in the rough which we discovered when we acquired another company,” said Paudie O’Connor, multi-site vice-president of manufacturing at Boston Scientific. “When we acquired it, we thought we would produce about 70,000 a year but next year that will reach five million. We have found an Irish manufacturing partner to work with on that. We spent time working with them to understand our needs. We shared the journey and the research and worked together to achieve our goal.”

Collaboration is not just a question of product or process development, according to Tanja Valentin, director of external affairs at MedTech Europe. “Different healthcare players, buyer institutes and hospital communities are collaborating to deliver innovative procurement schedules and mechanisms. They are working together to identify value drivers which are not only price. The Nordics, Catalonia and some UK regions have pioneered this because they are seeing better outcomes from the approach. But you have to work at it together to deliver these better outcomes.”

The Government and Enterprise Ireland will continue to support the growth of the industry in Ireland, according to Breen. “We will continue to foster industry clusters and develop the Health Innovation Hubs around the country. There is no better place in the world to set up and scale a medtech business to address global healthcare challenges.”