ICS Medical Devices: Ireland’s next scaling medtech to watch

27 Jun 2022

Seamus Fahey, founder and CEO, ICS Medical. Image: Martina Regan Photography

Founder Seamus Fahey is following in the footsteps of a former employer with his goal to build a major medical device supplier on Ireland’s west coast.

Last month, ICS Medical Devices announced that it would move to a new 16,000 sq ft manufacturing facility to support its rapid growth.

Built out of Ireland’s medtech hub along the west coast, ICS Medical Devices provides design, prototyping and manufacturing of catheter shafts for minimally invasive medicine. This expansion will add extensive general manufacturing space and cleanroom capacity, as well as a customer innovation centre, to its Galway headquarters.

All of this will support the supply of components that can make neurovascular, coronary vascular, structural heart and endoscopic products and therapies less invasive.

“These minimally invasive therapies push the boundaries of what is possible in medicine,” said ICS Medical founder Seamus Fahey. “Today, we can replace a diseased heart valve with a single catheter in less than an hour, replacing traditional open-heart surgery, which can take up to half a day on the operating table.”

‘Medtech start-ups need solutions equivalent to those provided by larger contract companies, but at a scale, speed and quality level that makes sense for them’

The new home for the Galway start-up will formally open this autumn, allowing ICS to grow alongside its customer base.

“I founded ICS with the intention to provide our service solution to the medical device start-up community and smaller OEMs. As these companies grow so do we, scaling alongside the customer from initial product development to full commercial solution,” said Fahey.

The business began in 2019 but Fahey said it has “technology, engineering capability and expertise on-site that belies our three years’ age”.

“ICS Medical Devices is about enabling our customers to get their medical device innovation to the patient in the fastest time possible,” he said. “Once successfully launched to market, we continue to support our customers through our capability to manufacture the approved medical device solution on their behalf. Our customer’s success is always our priority.”

He believes a nimble start-up backed up by high-level expertise and professionalism plugs a gap for smaller companies requiring support in medtech manufacturing.

“Medical device start-up companies and smaller OEMs struggled to be served in a manner that they needed to be successful,” said Fahey. “They need solutions equivalent to those provided by larger contract companies, but at a scale, speed and quality level that makes sense for them. That is where ICS comes in. We bridge that needs gap.”

However, ICS Medical had to first convince a cautious industry it was capable of safely bringing partners across that bridge. “Our first challenge was getting the first customers to believe in our ability to support them,” said Fahey.

“It is a big leap of faith for a medical device start-up to trust their critical milestones to a start-up contract partner without a track record and operating at a smaller scale than larger providers. Thankfully, some put that trust in ICS. We have proven the model and built credibility across the medtech community since.”

And so the start-up has already developed an international client base across Ireland, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US.

“We established ICS in Ireland due to the thriving start up community on our doorstep. However, it is within Europe where we are experiencing our growth today,” said Fahey. “There is major activity on this side of the Atlantic, which I see as a shift away from traditional multinational-centred R&D and the predominance of US-based innovators. This growing market needs service providers with the skills and technological capability to serve their development journeys, ideally from a European location.”

‘We have seen excellent success stories in the medical device industry locally and I see a huge appetite for more of this’

Fahey leads the business he founded as CEO. He himself has more than 20 years’ experience in the medtech industry, particularly in the development of catheters. This journey included 16 years at Creganna, Ireland’s largest indigenous medical device company.

“I led the contract design and development team at Creganna’s headquarters and, during my time there, we developed thousands of product concepts including many ‘first in human’ medical devices,” Fahey recalled. “My time there was some journey and an incredible learning ground over those years as Creganna scaled and became a huge global success story.”

Indeed he joined Creganna when it was a team of 60 people in Galway and left after it was bought for €821m by TE Connectivity, an 80,000-strong corporation.

Now, Fahey hopes to see ICS Medical through its own growth trajectory, scaling another major medtech business out of Galway. And so far, progress has been beyond even his expectations.

“We are now three years into our journey and we are progressing very well insofar as we are ahead of our initial business plan,” he said.

“Happily, we are revenue generating and using that success to date to drive additional investment back into the business.”

As ICS Medical scales, Fahey is keen to ensure the company does so responsibly. “We have established a dedicated supply chain function with a remit to not just seek economic efficiencies but to also find the most environmentally sustainable solutions available,” he said.

Overall, he said “the future looks positive” in what is a “buoyant” Irish start-up scene.

“We have seen excellent success stories in the medical device industry locally and I see a huge appetite for more of this. There is an enormous community of experienced industry veterans in Ireland who are driving and leading innovation from initial clinical ideas to commercially successful products. This community has helped Ireland to become a globally recognised medtech hotspot.”

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.