Why Ireland’s medtech scene is a force to be reckoned with

6 May 2022

Image: © tilialucida/Stock.adobe.com

Paul Grand, CEO of MedTech Innovator, tells SiliconRepublic.com why he’s a ‘big fan’ of Ireland’s medical technology space.

Last week, 27 medtech start-ups from across Europe were pitted against each other in a room full of investors and industry leaders at the MedTech Innovator international pitching event in Dublin. Of these start-ups, six were from Ireland – the highest representation from any country.

One might think it natural that Irish companies were well represented in an event held in Ireland’s capital, but the CEO of MedTech Innovator, one of the world’s leading accelerators for medtech companies, thinks it has to do with the country’s undeniable strength in the sector more than anything else.

Paul Grand, a venture capitalist by profession, founded MedTech Innovator in 2013 to close the widening gap between medical device companies and sources of funding in the immediate aftermath of the financial crash.

Over the years, the California-headquartered non-profit has funded and mentored hundreds of start-ups in the medtech and health-tech space, with programmes available to companies across the US, Europe and Asia.

More than 1,000 companies apply to be part of its accelerator programmes every year, of which only 50 are selected for the opportunity to grow and scale their business ideas.

“At this point, MedTech Innovator is the largest accelerator in the world for medical technology, even including pharma – which we don’t include in our programme,” Grand told SiliconRepublic.com.

“Last year, of all the funding that happened in this sector globally, 20pc went to our portfolio. That’s one in five companies – showing that we have huge scale in this space.”

The accelerator boasts 420 companies in its portfolio, including big names in the global medtech space such as Medable, the decentralised medical trials company that has its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, and Osso VR, a virtual reality medical training company.

Ireland’s exceptional performance

Grand is a “big fan” of the Irish start-up ecosystem and sees Ireland as one of the strongest performing countries in MedTech Innovator every year.

“The Irish medtech ecosystem, particularly in Galway and Dublin, is amazing. Many MedTech Innovator companies that made it to the finals over the years have been from Ireland,” he said. “Almost every time, we have somebody up on the finals stage from Ireland.”

Last year, four companies from Galway – Atrian Medical, Lifelet Medical, Neurent Medical and Tympany Medical – were selected for the international MedTech Innovator 2021 programme to show off their innovations to global investors.

And at the Dublin pitching event last week, six of the 27 companies participating were from Ireland: Vertigenius, SymPhysis Medical, InjurySense, Phyxiom, Pumpinheart and Head Diagnostics. Israel followed in second place with five start-ups and France had three.

SymPhysis Medical, which raised €1.9m in funding last month for its palliative care device, went on to win the event, while Vertigenius and Head Diagnostics were among the top five finalists.

Grand said that Ireland’s unusually high performance in proportion to its size might have to do with the Government initiatives through bodies such as Enterprise Ireland and third-level institutions that provide the necessary supports for start-ups to thrive.

Alan Hobbs of Enterprise Ireland told SiliconRepublic.com last year that an estimated 180 domestic life sciences companies in Ireland employ more than 25,000 people and generate sales above $6bn per year. These indigenous life sciences companies span pharma, biotech, diagnostics and therapeutics, but the lion’s share are medical device businesses.

“This ecosystem is incredibly purposeful, just the way it was built by the Government setting up infrastructure so that companies have all the support they need,” said Grand. “And then what we bring is off-island expertise on the US market to help Irish-based companies succeed abroad.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic