Start local, think global with medtech careers

With 4,000 jobs expected to be added to the medical technology industry by 2020, the sector offers incomparable opportunities for entrepreneurial and innovative talent


Pictured at the launch of the 'Future skills needs analysis for the medical technology sector in Ireland to 2020', (l-r): Irish Medtech Association Skillnet, Pauline O' Flanagan; Former Irish Medtech Association Chair 2017 and Boston Scientific, Conor Russell; and Irish Medtech Association, Sinead Keogh


With growth of 5.6 per cent this year, the Irish recovery has been underscored by strong employment growth with more than 2.2 million people now at work. One of the most exciting sectors is medtech with 4.4 per cent growth annually for nearly a decade in Europe. So whether you’re a student reflecting on your CAO change of mind form ahead of the 1 July deadline, or you’re looking for new opportunities, the medtech career path has a lot to offer.

All of the world’s top 10 medtech companies have a base in Ireland, and of the 450 medtech businesses here, four out of five are SMEs, with total exports of €12.6 billion. With the Irish medtech sector you can start local and think global, with clusters in Galway, Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Sligo being your gateway to continental Europe, America, China, Canada and beyond.

Ireland is already the greatest employer per capita of medtech professionals in Europe, with 38,000 people working in this dynamic industry. As the country continues to thrive as a major global hub, an additional 4,000 jobs are expected to be added by 2020, according to a special report The Irish Medtech Association published entitled Future skills needs analysis

As the momentum in the sector sees more investment in Ireland and new startups founded, the demand for a range of professionals in areas like operations, marketing, quality and regulatory affairs, business excellence and more is increasing.

Moreover, nearly a third of the new jobs are in areas such as R&D as well engineering specialities, from biomedical engineering and manufacturing engineering to computer engineering and polymer engineering. 

These roles, with opportunities to innovate and create new products, highlight the importance of getting the right skills to maintain medtech's reputation as the leading industry for innovativeness in Europe, with 13,090 patents filed in 2017. 

In addition to the world’s top medtech companies, there are 10 of the top 10 ICT companies, and all 10 of the top 10 biopharma companies with a base in Ireland

Connected health is one area where Ireland is uniquely placed to take a global lead with new ways to delivery care already being developed. The burst in potential for Internet of Things businesses is set to reach €6.5 trillion by 2025, with healthcare the single greatest sector driving it.

In addition to the world’s top medtech companies, there are 10 of the top 10 ICT companies, and all 10 of the top 10 biopharma companies with a base in Ireland. Along with our ability to collaborate on a strategic level and a strong businesses environment we have a recipe for success.

The manufacturing sector in Ireland currently spends €771 million on R&D annually. But this cross-industry collaboration is also revolutionising the way that new products are manufactured. Advanced manufacturing is seeing modern medtech professionals working with collaborative robots, creating personalised medical devices with 3D printers, and embracing data analytics to lead the factory of the future.

To sustain this success we must continue to upskill and re-skill people in the face of these disruptors, while making sure that the curriculum at third level, in vital areas such as engineering and R&D, remains relevant for graduates to pursue the careers of the future. More also needs to be done to encourage students at primary and second level to study subjects that lead to manufacturing and medtech careers – especially girls and women.

The Irish Medtech Association board has committed to ‘Make Ireland a world leader for gender leadership in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)'

Managing the talent pipeline to help the sector reach its potential has been a major priority for Irish Medtech. Technology is transforming both our workplaces and our workforce. 

We must do more to ensure that the modern medtech workforce reflects the people which they serve. Manufacturing continues to be dominated by men in Ireland and abroad. The Irish Medtech Association board has committed to ‘Make Ireland a world leader for gender leadership in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)’.

To make meaningful change in businesses in the short and medium-term, The Irish Medtech Association have established a dedicated Gender Leadership Taskforce, chaired by Medtronic Galway VP and General Manager Tony Neary, with participation from other leading businesses including Boston Scientific and Abbott.

Ireland has made great strides with the level of female CEOs rising from 14 per cent in 2015 to 19 per cent in 2017, according to Women in Management – the Leadership Pipeline 2017, a report developed by Ibec, the 30% Club and DCU. However, only 6 per cent of manufacturing firms have female CEOs – while this is below the national level, it is close to the global standard for women in leadership of 6.4 per cent of companies having a female CEO. 

This is a serious business issue; research has found that Fortune 500 companies with more than three women on their board had a 66 per cent higher return on invested capital and 42 per cent higher return on sales. Moreover, Irish women are more likely to have a third level degree and have higher progression rates than men. As the industry grows we need to be more proactive in finding the right talent to help it reach its potential. This means fostering greater diversity and female leadership, tackling occupational and education segregation, work life patterns and unconscious bias in the workplace.

Beyond gender leadership, The Irish Medtech Association's recommendations in the areas of skills and talent for 2020 include: 

  • Ensure Ireland's workforce are equipped for the jobs of the future by reviewing third level courses and tackle non-progression rates in key areas such as engineering.
  • Invest in further education, upskilling and alternative routes such as the new apprenticeships and Skillnets
  • Develop competencies for the medtech sector with a focus on industry disruptors.
  • Promote medtech careers and improve understanding of this innovative, life-saving sector
  • Make Ireland an employment destination of choice for mobile talent
  • Embed entrepreneurial education at second level

Worklife is changing at a faster rate with each generation. As we look to the future, businesses looking to attract mobile talent need to offer opportunities for people to make an impact and offer a route for career development. Equally, people need ensure that they have transferable skills and can demonstrate resourcefulness. Medtech as industry which saves and transforms lives with innovative products and services offers incomparable opportunities. 

For more, see www.irishmedtechassoc.ie