Medical technology companies devote about 7-8% of their annual sales turnover to research and development and it can take up to three years to bring a new product to market.
It’s a complex and time-consuming process, given the effort and cost of R&D, the elaborate review and approval process, and overcoming the “valley of death” between innovation and commercialisation. Additional pressures include the regulatory landscape, healthcare reforms and medical device tax, all of which restrict innovation.
Medical technology companies want to bring the latest products to market quickly and at cheaper rates. As such, collaboration between industry, academia and the clinical community will be highly beneficial to leverage the cumulative benefits of ideation, scientific skillsets, test beds for trials and manufacturing prowess to bring next-generation medical devices to market.
Key Benefits Offered by an Integrated Ecosystem to Medical Technology Companies
Academia provides a strong research engine for medical technology companies to tap into and in turn offers support for commercialisation through financial assistance, as well as development and manufacturing capabilities.
On the other hand, the clinical community can contribute to such collaboration by providing key inputs and professional opinion regarding use cases, thus furthering the pace of research and innovation.
Furthermore, government and regional healthcare authorities can provide assistance to these collaborative partnerships through policies and frameworks that support infrastructure development such as defined bio-medical clusters and life sciences enterprise zones. Other benefits include accessibility to experts in a variety of medical fields, often enabling them to expand to areas outside their current focus.
More importantly, it also provides additional opportunities for collaboration such as infrastructure sharing, collective buying and group purchasing, as well as the opportunity to be part of a coveted community of high technology, venture capital and innovation.
Emerging Models: Medical Device Innovation Clusters and Infrastructure Sharing Models
Access to the best healthcare facilities, universities and research organisations and the presence of several technology start-ups, manufacturers, suppliers and venture capitalists are the hallmarks of a hotbed of innovation.
There are 27,000 medical technology companies scattered across Europe, mainly in medical innovation clusters in France, Germany, Ireland, the UK, Spain, Switzerland and Italy and employing more than 600,000 people.
These companies are focused across the value chain, including R&D intensive technologies, proprietary products, contract development and manufacturing, packaging and sterilisation. From medical instruments for diagnostics, drug delivery and surgical intervention to highly specialised areas such as medical imaging, robotics, implantable medical devices, prosthetics, regenerative medicine, healthcare IT and telemedicine, these clusters play a big role in taking medical technology to the next level.
Apart from cost savings and research collaboration, these clusters offer other critical advantages. For instance, Ireland provides proactive support to medical technology companies through several initiatives that enhance the ease of doing business such as CÚRAM, a medical device research centre at NUI Galway. This culture of innovation has led eight of the world’s top 10 medtech companies to put down roots in Ireland. They also benefit from the export potential as medical devices account for 10% of all exports from Ireland. Similarly, 80% of the global production of stents and 50% of the ventilators for acute hospitals are manufactured in Ireland, which indicates the success of the medical device hotspot in furthering innovation.
To summarise, an integrated ecosystem of academia-industry-clinical community supported by government and regulatory authorities can collectively address major challenges by putting together the strategic competencies necessary to achieve a common goal.