“Ireland is one of Europe’s largest medical device hubs and a globally recognised centre of excellence, with over 300 homegrown medtech companies,” Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business, told delegates at Med in Ireland, Ireland’s largest medical technologies event, “With a strong focus on cross-industry collaboration, Ireland is the second-largest exporter of medical devices in Europe.”
Minister Breen highlighted some incredible facts:
- 25% of the world’s diabetic population rely on injection devices made in Ireland
- 33% of the world’s contact lenses are manufactured in Ireland
- 50% of the ventilators in acute hospitals are manufactured in Ireland
- 80% of the stents production in the world is in Ireland.
These are just some of the figures highlighting Ireland’s successful medtech ecosystem.
Chris Coburn, Chief Innovation Officer at Partners HealthCare System in Boston (the largest academic research enterprise in the US) said that Ireland is a significant contributor to medtech innovation in the region.
“In Ireland, I’m seeing very important new technology that is transforming the medical workplace in important ways globally. It’s a defining element in the US, there are so many new players and so many new approaches.”
Medtech innovation: the view from Dubai
Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki, Director of Investment and Partnership at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), is responsible for development of various public and private health projects within Dubai. She says, “In 2012-2017, we’ve seen huge growth in terms of inpatients and outpatients in the private sector, the number of opened facilities and hospitals, as well as professionals licensed.”
Expenditure in Dubai has increased to 12% – and that’s due to the mandate of health insurance, continues Al Bastaki. “In Dubai, almost 99% is health insured, whether through a premium or basic plan. All of them have access to the healthcare system.
“But although Dubai is a vibrant modern city, unfortunately we are behind when it comes to telehealth (the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as mobile devices, to access healthcare and manage services remotely). Therefore, we are doing a lot of work to emphasise the role of telehealth, and how technology can speed up to cater to the population.”
In the next few years, Al Bastaki, who graduated as a medical physician and secured her Masters in Health Care Management from Ireland’s Royal College of Surgeons, says the aims are to focus on areas where there are gaps in the market. These include primary healthcare innovation, mental health, rehabilitation, precision medicine, and nursing homes. These are the drivers for healthcare investment in Dubai, because of a rising aging population, chronic disease, mandatory health insurance, and evolving technologies.
Irish innovation could solve global medtech challenges
“There are various projects we are working on, where Irish innovators could be part of the consortium. We have developed the Dubai Health Investment Guide 2018-25. This has comprehensive information and insights for investors and private sector providers on investment opportunities, to help address health system gaps and priorities over the coming years.”
When it comes to looking ahead to the future, Tanja Valentin, Director of Governor Affairs and Policy for Medtech Europe, says all medtech companies should bear in mind the five main drivers that will shape the trade and medtech sector. These are digitalisation, business, society, health and politics.
Valentin expands on some of the drivers, “Digitalisation is already in place in some shape or form, but a big part of the future of medtech development will depend upon the analysis of big data. This will go beyond sources from medical devices and to other sources, such as how contact lenses can measure the chemicals from eye drops for eye health in patients. It’s also about how data can be used to make professional changes, such as making decisions, or changes in healthcare settings based on data. Future digitisation will bring transparency, and will be able to provide a more patient-centric model.”
Valentin, who once studied in Dublin, says with business models, product development will adapt from one-dimensional, non-collaborative product production to more collaborative holistic solutions. “For example, today you see a whole class of new diabetes management systems, where there’s a lot of collaboration of different players providing holistic management conditions that automise and connect many steps that the patients initially had to do themselves. This caused a lot of stress and human error.
“What we will see coming in the next few years will be drastically different from what we have seen in the past. Therefore, we need more investment in Europe and in medtech, so we can retain medtech companies as European success stories, which continue to play a strong part in future health delivery.”
To conclude, Stephen Creaner, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland, says, “Irish companies are at the forefront of market diversification. We see Irish companies as a gateway to Europe, for our international partners who want to engage the vibrant European economy. The strategic partnerships we have established over the last four years, have made this environment very attractive for the healthcare sector to engage with this particular cohort.
“Multinationals have given our companies access to the supply chain challenges that they’re experiencing, as they try to improve their service level. The opportunity for strategic partnerships and collaboration to be developed highlights the integrated nature of the sector and positions a prosperous future.”