Making the German connections in med tech

4 Mar 2013

Jane Greene, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Ambassador to Germany Dan Mulhall; Minister Seán Sherlock; Declan and Aoife O'Rourke of Tool and Plastic Industries; and Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland

In Germany, med tech is thriving. In fact, it’s one of the largest markets in the world for medical devices and technology. And, as exhibitors at the Medtec Europe expo in Stuttgart, Germany, found out last week, there is scope for high-quality Irish companies to connect to it.

“Germany is the third-largest medical device market in the world, ranking just behind the USA and Japan, and Germany has always had a history and tradition of engineering excellence and producing and manufacturing very high-quality medical equipment,” says Düsseldorf-based Jane Greene, Life Sciences market adviser with Enterprise Ireland for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, who was at the Med in Ireland stand last week at Medtec Europe.

“But despite having this strong domestic industry, imports supply about three-quarters of the medical market – the companies are still highly dependent on imports.”

Quality offerings

The high quality of Ireland’s med-tech cluster means there are opportunities for Irish companies to sell to companies in the German-speaking market, notes Greene.

“We have companies in Ireland who can provide design, prototyping, manufacturing, testing and packaging capability who offer world-class services. The quality is so high in Ireland that the Germans and the Swiss are acknowledging and recognising that Ireland is an excellent market to source this technology,” she says.

And it’s not just the sub-supply and medical technology manufacturing that has been turning heads, according to Greene.

“We are also noticing a trend that there are Irish companies who are going into the market with finished devices,” she explains. “So you have Irish companies with capability who really have something to offer, and they are being well received by the OEMs and the finished-device manufacturers, who are looking for this capability or they don’t have the capacity themselves and they have to outsource.”

Keeping good company at Medtec

One of the companies on the Enterprise Ireland stand was Tool and Plastic, which has manufacturing locations in Longford and at Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

“Our business is that of a solutions provider to the medical device and healthcare sectors in Ireland and overseas,” explains director Declan O’Rourke. “We offer product design, project management, mould construction, product validation and production capabilities. Over 70pc of our business is in the export markets in the UK, EU and the US.”   

It can be difficult to get established in the German-speaking markets, but once you are in it then the customer base is very loyal, says O’Rourke, who explains that the company went to Medtec to establish new leads and possible new business opportunities.

“[We had a] very positive response to our product offering and we have identified some new opportunities for business,” he says. “Also it’s a very good networking event with existing customers and suppliers and a good opportunity to have a look at the international competition and to benchmark against them.”  

First-time exhibitor CLS also had a positive experience in Stuttgart last week. The group of Irish-owned contract laboratories, which employs 82 people, provides testing and the supply of trained analysts to the food, water, medical device and pharmaceutical industries, explains CEO Evelyn O’Toole. While CLS has completed projects with German-based companies in the past, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Denmark and the UK, it was the first time the company took part in an overseas marketing event.

“We asked Enterprise Ireland to help us look for face-to-face meetings and to circulate our company profile to gather information on requirements and interest in what CLS provides,” says O’Toole. “Overall the experience from the show has been extremely positive and worthwhile. The outcome has matched and surpassed the expectations that we had on the lead up to the show. We managed to get potentially strong collaborative partners to follow up with in building expertise, new Irish-based business, three trials scenarios with overseas new clients and the opportunity to quote for work for four others that will hopefully lead to some contracts.”

Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, TD, was in Germany for Government business and visited Medtec, where he met Irish exhibitors and left with a good impression.   

“We have a cluster of extremely innovative companies in the med-tech sector and opportunities in markets like Germany, Switzerland and Austria are vital to sustaining Irish jobs and Irish companies,” he says. “There is an Irish expertise in the med-tech sector, particularly at sub-supply level, and the work that Enterprise Ireland is doing to help these companies would make one proud as a Government minister.”

Medtec Europe

Prepare to succeed

So what should Irish companies do if they are eyeing up the med-tech market in Germany for the first time? Preparation is important, according to Greene, who advises people to do their homework.

“You have to consider the German market is quite developed, so you have to position yourself, understand what the competitive landscape is, who else is out there and what kind of unique selling point you have,” she says. “And relationship building is key – people buy from people at the end of the day.” is hosting Med Tech Focus, an initiative which over coming months will cover news, reports, interviews and videos, documenting Ireland’s leading role in one of the hottest sectors in technology.

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication