Medical devices – Ireland’s €6bn share of global mega industry

2 Oct 2009

Ireland’s medical-devices industry exports €6bn worth of goods a year and is carving a vital niche out of a global industry worth US$280bn.

The medical-device industry in Ireland, which grew largely in the West after Digital Equipment Corporation closed its manufacturing operations in Galway in 1993, is now the second-largest concentration of medical devices companies in the world after Idaho.

The global medical technologies industry is valued at US$280bn and has been growing by about 7pc per annum.

The medical-devices sector has had a strong presence in Ireland for 40 years, with more than 140 medical-technology companies and nine of the world’s Top 10 medical-devices companies located here.

Ireland is globally recognised as leading location for the development and manufacture of medical technologies. The industry employs more than 25,000 people in Ireland, generating sales in excess of €6bn annually.

Ireland has the highest per capita employment of medical-technology personnel in Europe.

In 2008, the life-sciences sector in Ireland had sales of €800m, exports of €650m, and employment of about 5,000 people.

The Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Conor Lenihan TD, yesterday described Ireland’s medical-devices industry as “a key driver and fertile source of innovation towards the development of Ireland’s Smart Economy”.

Lenihan was addressing a joint Irish Medical Devices Association/Science Foundation Ireland forum in Galway. The event, which more than 100 people attended, provided an opportunity for SFI researchers to showcase their work to medical-device companies based in Ireland, given the strategic importance of the sector to the Irish economy.

Lenihan said the global medical-technologies industry has been growing by about 7pc per annum.

“Clearly the resilience and buoyancy of Ireland’s medical-devices industry is something to which other sectors in the economy can look for guidance and inspiration. The pioneering research and range of market-leading products being generated within the medical-devices sector represents a beacon for economic recovery and a boost for Ireland’s international standing,” Lenihan said.

The minister was commenting following the release earlier this week of data by the Irish Exporters Association, which shows that exports of pharmaceuticals, chemicals and medical devices are defying the global recession with a 11pc growth level in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2008.

Lenihan added: “Ireland’s expanding research base and commercial productivity has been formidable in the area of medical devices for a number of years now, and our reputation in this sphere continues to be enhanced through the collective efforts of industry and, importantly, bolstered by the growing research capacity supported by Government investment through SFI.

“In order to initiate and implement a programme of economic rejuvenation, Ireland needs to maintain its competitive advantage in specialised areas such as this” Lenihan said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Ireland has the highest per capita employment of medical-technology personnel in Europe.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years