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IDA Ireland: “It has been a phenomenal number of years for MedTech in Ireland”

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Ireland has solidified its position as a global hub for MedTech in recent years and continues to attract some of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies. HealthTech World spoke to Rachel Shelley from the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) Ireland to talk about the country’s emergence as a hotspot for health tech.

Ireland is one of Europe’s most important hubs for healthcare technology. In fact, it is the second largest exporter of MedTech products in the continent, generating approximately €12.6 billion in exports each year.

Widely regarded as a global hotspot for health tech, Ireland has a strong base of both indigenous and multinational companies who choose to set up operations in the country. Ireland is home to over three hundred med tech companies, employing upwards of 40,000 people, the highest number of MedTech personnel per capita in Europe. 

Ireland’s burgeoning health tech sector is built on a strong history in manufacturing, especially in the areas of cardiovascular, neurovascular, diagnostic, vision care and orthopaedics. Over the past few years, many of these sub-sectors have evolved from device production into next generation technologies.

Rachel Shelly, Head of Medical Technologies at the IDA said: “Ireland has a very long history as a location for companies in the med tech space to come and invest. It really started out as a manufacturing hub but what we’ve seen over the last number of years is a transition and a development into services and technology as the nature of the industry has evolved. 

“What we are seeing across the different sectors is a drive towards the provision of solutions. The device is one aspect of that, but companies are now starting to look at technologies that support the patient experience and provide better data in relation to how the devices are performing.”

The IDA is the foreign direct investment agency for the Irish government, promoting Ireland as a location for multinational companies to expand their international operations and providing support across areas such as innovation, R&D and training. 

According to Shelley, it has been a “phenomenal number of years” for the med tech sector in Ireland. Fourteen of the top fifteen health tech companies in the world are now located in Ireland and two of the top five employers in the country are within the MedTech sector. 

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Stryker, the American medical technologies company, has invested over €200 million in R&D across three centres and has built a number of manufacturing sites across the country. Meanwhile, new investors such as Edwards Lifesciences have expanded their operations into the country. 

So why are companies choosing to set up shop in Ireland? 

Shelly puts this, in part, down to a supportive ecosystem that has developed between tech companies across the country. 

“Companies really come in and grow and scale what they’re doing and develop their operations over many years,” Shelly said. “They come to Ireland and stay for the long term. 

“This success is a product of a really thriving ecosystem that sits around these companies. From a medical devices perspective, historically, the ecosystem has been very strong.

“There is a strong base of sub-suppliers, a very strong base of academic centers, research centers, and talent that sits around these companies and helps those companies to really flourish.”

Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe with around half of the population being under 35. And as members of the EU, the country also has access to the labour pool in Europe, leading to the creation of a “broad and deep” talent pool. 

IDA Ireland Rachel Shelly

Rachel Shelly, Head of Medical Technologies at the IDA

“This is a big attractor for multinational companies and global companies that want to set up here,” Shelly said. “We have very high participation in third level education and very good investment in education from the government. 

“In addition to having 14 of the top 15 med tech companies in the world located in Ireland, we also have a very strong technology cluster. 

“[This] has really ensured that we’ve built a very diverse talent pool that spans the entire spectrum of technology right the way through from infrastructure and cloud technology right the way through to web development and everything in between.”

Both technology and life sciences have been a target of investment from the Irish government in recent years and have grown to become two of the largest sectors within the country’s multinational portfolio, Shelley said. 

The IDA recently announced its ‘Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth’ strategy which aims to support the national recovery in Ireland over the next four years through job creation and driving investment from multinational companies.  

MedTech is set to play a central role in the strategy.

“A big focus for us as we move forward in the new strategy is around growth and transformation. 

“Med tech is a highly strategic sector within that portfolio, because of the high quality jobs that are mostly based outside of Dublin across the country. The impact they have is enormous from a local and national point of view.”

The IDA is also leading on the delivery of a new Advanced Manufacturing Centre that is due to launch at the end of the year in Limerick to drive the next wave of manufacturing. 

The goal is to accelerate the use of new smart manufacturing technologies and build an innovative destination for new products and services across digital and connected health as well as platform technologies. 

It will also build new capacity in research training and technical process development, supporting the next generation of RD&I investment.

The key piece of this is the upskilling element as well, because whilst the technologies have been around for a little while, applying those new technologies [and] bringing them all together can be challenging,” Shelley added. 

“Having a destination where companies can go and learn about the technologies and learn how to apply them in a real way and solve real problems is going to be hopefully a big advantage to companies going forward.”

MedTech has undoubtedly had a big impact on Ireland and is a vital part of the country’s economy and the local communities in which they are based. Shelley expects that it will keep playing an important role in the global med tech sector moving forward and will continue to attract innovative multinational companies that are looking to quickly scale and grow. 

“ Ireland is definitely developing a very good reputation as as a location for companies to look at,” Shelley said. “The industry is very proactive, very progressive, and very well connected and it’s a very strong ecosystem that works together. So I think the future looks very bright.  

“We’ve built a phenomenal track record for manufacturing and a very good reputation for innovation and R&D. I think the talent pool that we have here, the capacity for innovation and the support we have for innovation really does make Ireland a very strong location for collaboration. 

“I think that’s what is going to drive growth for all industries going forward; collaboration and innovation.”

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