Meet one of Ireland’s most powerful women in medtech

6 Dec 2017

Bronwyn Brophy, vice-president of early technologies, EMEA, Medtronic. Image: Medtronic

Ireland has a wealth of innovative medtech start-ups and teams, and Medtronic’s Bronwyn Brophy is there to take them to the next level.

Out of the small number of medtech juggernauts that exist in the world, few are bigger than Medtronic. An Irish-headquartered company, Medtronic has revenues of nearly $30bn globally across 160 countries and employs more than 85,000 people.

The company made the move to Ireland in 2014 after its €31.7bn acquisition of Covidien, merging two of the biggest players in the medical devices market.

One of the main objectives for Medtronic is finding new talent and devices that could potentially be brought to the global market. A lot of these small players’ success rests on the shoulders of one of Ireland’s most powerful women: Bronwyn Brophy.

In her role as vice-president of early technologies in the EMEA region at Medtronic, Brophy has a focus on accelerating the adoption of new therapies in the areas of lung, liver and oesophageal cancer.

In this division alone, Medtronic expects growth rates to be higher than many others, with an expected portfolio of $30bn over the coming years meaning a lot is at stake for new technologies.

Since taking on the role in April of 2014, Brophy has worked heavily with three technologies in particular: PillCam, an endoscopy camera that you swallow in a pill; Barrx, a system designed to remove Barrett’s epithelium in the oesophagus; and Emprint, which is used to ablate tumours in the liver and other soft tissues.

Cameras in pill form might seem like an idea straight out of science fiction but, speaking with, Brophy said these technologies are simply a sign of what capabilities Ireland has in the medtech sector.

“I think Irish companies are doing a really good job in this area and with the support of bodies like Enterprise Ireland, and they have made great strides in raising their profiles internationally.”

Gender diversity still too low in Ireland

With more than 20 years in the medical device industry in Europe, Brophy has seen it all when it comes to technologies, but this has increased substantially this year alone.

“We have witnessed a lot of consolidation in the medical device industry over the past number of years,” Brophy said. “Interestingly, 2017 has been the busiest year [for Medtronic] since 2007.”

Given that she has been named on numerous occasions by the Women’s Executive Network as one of Ireland’s most powerful women, Brophy is a strong advocate for greater diversity.

While problems remain across the sector, she admitted, she is happy to be at Medtronic as it has at least set a target in addressing the leadership gap among men and women.

“I think we are making progress but, for example, in the case of gender diversity, it is simply too slow, especially in Ireland,” she said.

“At Medtronic, we have a target to have 40pc female leaders by 2020 and we are pushing hard to achieve this. All companies need to set these types of goals and measure and communicate progress towards them.”

Bronwyn Brophy will be speaking at Medtech Rising on 7 December as part of the ‘Innovation trends and new strategies’ panel.

Updated, 8.38pm, 13 December 2017: This article was updated to clarify that Medtronic has revenues of $30bn globally across 160 countries.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic