October 31, 2013
Irish American Partnership study shows exciting growth
Ireland is slowly emerging from its economic disaster and one of the main reasons is the medical device business led by Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and 200 other medical device companies located in Galway and throughout the country.
A just-released research study financed by the Irish American Partnership, sponsored by the Regenerative Medicine Institute of the National University of Ireland Galway, and authored by Ms. Emma Wickham shows how the medical device business in both Galway and Massachusetts is thriving due at least partly to “technology transfer” activities.
“Technology transfer” refers to collaborative programs involving government grants, university research, and industry. Successful product-producing research is typically licensed to an existing business in the field for manufacture, promotion, and distribution. The goal, of course, is more jobs for the local economy.
Taxpayer-supported research programs are used by all governments throughout the world to create new business and bring huge health benefits to all people.
Massachusetts and Ireland, with their combined accumulation of extraordinary universities, willing governments, and forward-thinking companies are natural candidates for this collaboration, and Galway and Boston have benefitted immensely from the programs.
The medical device category covers a wide variety of product areas. The list includes artificial joints and prosthetic limbs, laboratory tools, even large X-ray machines and MRI scanners. It also includes cardiovascular products such as pacemakers, stents to open heart valves, and defibrillators.
The major companies in the business are Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Stryker ,and Becton Dickinson.
According to Enterprise Ireland, a business promoting agency of the Irish government, 80 percent of the stents used globally are made in Ireland.
Quoting from the Irish American Partnership/University of Galway study: “Ireland is now one of the largest exporters of medical devices in the world, with an export value of 7.2 billion in 2010. The Irish government has identified the medical device sector as a key driver for economic growth, and so has invested heavily in this sector. There are over 200 medical device companies located in Ireland and the medical technology sector employs 25,000 people directly.”
Similar businesses tend to cluster together and this is very true of the medical device business. Galway and Boston are good examples. The establishment of Boston Scientific and Medtronic in Galway in the 1990s is responsible for the growth of the medical device cluster in Ireland, specifically in Galway.
The Boston area has similarly benefitted from the location of Boston Scientific. According to the Partnership/Galway study, Massachusetts and Ireland have approximately 25,000 workers employed in medical device manufacture, research, and development. Due to their respective sizes, Ireland’s medical device employment is far more important. In fact, Ireland’s total population (4.6 million) is less than that of Massachusetts (6.6 million).
Ireland was a manufacturing location until about 15 years ago. Today, because its educational system is producing such a highly trained work force, Ireland has become a favorite research area for new medical device investment. Boston Scientific, Stryker, Abbott, Covidien, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic have all set up research and development facilities in Ireland.
And today, Massachusetts and Ireland have countless agencies and organizations dedicated to assisting universities and companies specifically in the medical device business.
In Ireland foremost among them are the Regenerative Medicine Institute in the National University of Galway, Trinity Biomedical Institute at Trinity College, and the Irish government’s Enterprise Ireland.
The Galway Technology Center helps small business in the county. The Irish Medical Device Association and the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council are both dedicated to bringing new business to their areas and assisting existing business where needed.
“Technology Transfer” is the key to all these promotional activities, and the process of government funding, University research, and licensed business participation is the central focus. No good idea, no successful product-producing research will go unrewarded with all this support in place.
The medical device industry is well served by the professionalism shown by the leaders of both Ireland and Massachusetts and their economies will benefit from this effort for many years. And perhaps more importantly, the people of Ireland, Massachusetts, and throughout the world will be healthier and live longer because of new advances in the industry.