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Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Ireland’s booming medtech scene


Sheila O’Loughlin, Senior Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland, brings us up to date with the latest ventures in the Republic 

Irish medtech

Enterprise Ireland is an Irish government agency and the third largest seed investor in Europe, investing €32m in 229 start-up companies in 2016 – the highest level on record. Enterprise Ireland clients export over €550m a month to the UK and trade between the UK and Ireland directly supports 400,000 jobs, approximately half of which are in the UK. Specifically, Ireland’s vibrant medtech sector is attracting international investors and start-ups keen to join a thriving and innovative cluster. With medical device exports in excess of €12bn a year – the second largest exporter of medical technology in the Europe – Ireland stands as one of the five global emerging medtech hubs. And Brexit is increasing the appeal. 

Home to 13 of the top 15 global medtech companies, including Boston Scientific, Medtronic and Stryker, the country is recognised as centre of excellence for the manufacture and, increasingly, the development of medical devices, with 60 per cent of medtech companies in Ireland engaged in R&D.  

The country also boasts a strong indigenous base with companies such as Aerogen, Vitalograph and IMS Maxims making their mark as global players.  

Particular expertise lies in orthopaedics, cardiovascular and diagnostics. In addition, Ireland hosts a strong medtech services, contract research and manufacturing base, with 50 per cent of companies in the ‘Business-to-Business’ space. A partnership approach with customers allows Irish subcontractors to move up the value chain and collaborate at design stage. 

Digital Health is a real growth area. Ireland’s reputation as a leader in medical devices, combined with its success as a global tech hub, with Google, Microsoft and Facebook having bases here, has resulted in the emergence of an exciting cluster of digital health innovators, developing solutions to meet the increasing global demand in areas such as remote care and management of chronic conditions. 

Innovation through collaboration is at the centre of Ireland’s strategy to drive growth in the industry, with the entire ecosystem, from research institutions, clinicians, manufacturers, indigenous companies, multinationals and government agencies working closely to ensure Ireland remains at the forefront of the global medtech scene. 

Initiatives such as BioInnovate, where participants spend time embedded with clinical teams to identify needs and to develop solutions, are designed to drive high growth start-ups and Enterprise Ireland’s five-year partnership with the Mayo Clinic aims to commercialise up to 20 US medical technologies and to create 10 spin-out companies in Ireland. 

Emerging trends driving global change  

Irish companies are operating in a global healthcare market in which major global trends are driving substantial change, including: 

  • Health care reformprovisions such as increases in government funding and broader insurance coverage; 
  • Rising health costs prompting both governments and consumers to look towards community care, cutting down on the demand for inpatient care; 
  • Technological advancements and product innovation: e-health, personalised medicine and self-treatment are on the rise and combination device and big data analytics are increasingly active; 
  • An ageing population and rising incidence of chronic diseases increasing demand for new products and services to support smart ageing and self-care. 

Below are a few Irish companies to watch out for… 

How medical device CEOs can navigate digital health disruption

In the first of a series of three articles, we get global leaders, McKinsey & Company's insight on the medtech market right now. They give their expert advice to medical device companies, explaining how they can navigate through digital disruption.


Acorn Regulatory  

Acorn Regulatory is an ISO-certified medical device and pharmaceutical consulting firm, specialising in assisting companies with global regulatory approvals. Mainly focusing on pharmaceutical, medical devices and pharmacovigilance, Acorn Regulatory has over 15 years of experience and is now considered one of the largest pharmaceutical and medtech regulatory firms in Europe. There has been a recent growth in UK/Irish industry collaboration and Acorn Regulatory has seen increased UK companies requiring additional support and guidance since Brexit on how to navigate the uncertainty that the referendum result has brought about. 

The UK side of the business has since grown rapidly becoming the fastest growing market for Acorn Regulatory – growing over 105 per cent in the last year.  Enterprise Ireland is supporting with these UK collaborations and Acorn Regulatory now has over 25 UK projects live and is currently working with a number of medium and large UK-based pharma and medtech companies.   

Acorn Regulatory’s projects in the UK include working on a series of clinical trials with an emerging medtech firm based in the south west as well as acting as the outsourced regulatory and pharmacovigilance department for a UK pharmaceutical manufacturer. With 16 full-time employees and plans to almost double in headcount in the next two years, the company is now active in over 76 markets and is looking to ensure its strong Irish heritage and presence is replicated in the UK. As a result it has also opened a new office in Chiswick, London to aid with its UK expansion plan. 


Another fast-growing company is Anecto, the Galway-based independent ISO-17025 accredited Test Laboratory, offering product testing, packaging testing and technical support services for the medical device and pharma sectors. Anecto offers the widest range of testing services in Europe for medical devices. Building on established partnerships with UK companies, the company expanded into the market with the opening of a sales office in Kent in 2011. Since then, UK sales have grown by 3,000 per cent, while the number of UK companies Anecto has worked with has grown by 950 per cent in the same time period.  

Anecto counts over 85 per cent of the world’s top medical device manufacturers among its client portfolio and in the past year, it has further built on its technical support services to include formal training, test method development, test method verification and validation services.  

Solvotrin Therapeutics 

Similarly, Solvotrin Therapeutics, the Cork-based life sciences Trinity College Dublin spin-out company, aims to continue to shake up the USD 10bn global iron market by rolling out its ‘Active Iron’ supplement to 7,000 UK stores in 2018. Solvotrin Therapeutics projects that 80 per cent of its revenue will come from the UK by 2018.  

Representing a major scientific breakthrough, ‘Active Iron’ is the only product on the market to offer the benefits of taking iron without the side effects. This has been confirmed by a recent clinical study. Distributed initially by Walgreens Boots Alliance, Active Iron is in 500 Boots branded stores and 300 independently owned Alphega pharmacies. ‘Active Iron’ is also included in the NHS bounty pack for pregnant women and recently launched in Day Lewis PharmacyHolland & Barrett and Numark Pharmacy. Solvotrin is focusing on growing in the UK over the next two years, with plans to expand further within Europe, into the US and Far East by 2019.

About the author

Journalist and editor Kathryn Reilly has worked in consumer, contract and medical writing for more than 20 years.

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