by Ryan Murphy, Enterprise Ireland SVP of life sciences for North America.
There is no better place in the world today for life science start-ups than Ireland. Its medical device ecosystem, in terms of access to specialised staff, managers, suppliers, advisers, and investors is world class. It is by far the best such system in an English-speaking area within the favourable European regulatory regime. Let’s take a quick look at some of the top reasons Ireland is a true global leader and partner in the life sciences sector.
Medtech Infrastructure – As one of Ireland’s strongest and most important business sectors, medical technology employs ~27,000 people in ~400 companies, 50% of which are indigenous Small and Medium Enterprises. Other sub-sectors in the life sciences employ a further 23,000 people in Ireland, in addition to contributing to the 100,000 people employed by Irish companies with operations in the United States. Ireland has strength and expertise across many sub-sectors in medtech, including cardiovascular, respiratory, orthopedics, surgery, diagnostics, molding, and precision engineering.
Manufacturing Expertise – For many years, Ireland has benefited from hosting multinational medtech companies who have established operations in the country (13 of the top 15 global medtech companies have operations in Ireland). These companies have driven the development of medtech and engineering skills in the local Irish workforce.
Personal Attention with Global Scale – Irish companies pride themselves on being able to offer a personal, customised approach to partners, often accepting projects that would not be taken up by other firms. However, these companies have also invested in the capital and resources to meet the needs of large-scale projects.
Government Support– The Irish government firmly believes in investing in and developing indigenous Irish business. Enterprise Ireland is a government agency that supports Irish companies with 33 overseas offices across the world. Irish companies are highly encouraged to apply for funding from domestic programs and the depth of their expertise is shown in their success in securing awards from foreign sources, including the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. Enterprise Ireland’s client portfolio includes the full lifetime spectrum of clients, from early start-up to established companies scaling up. They have worked with each company individually to conduct market research, create business plans, secure funding (including from Enterprise Ireland, which is the third most prolific seed fund in the world), and to continuously develop market strategy. Enterprise Ireland clients come to international markets prepared to embrace opportunity with the support to follow through.
Another government initiative, Science Foundation Ireland, also supports 12 research centers across Ireland, including the Center for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) and the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT). SFI ensures that Ireland is at the forefront of conducting research in the newest areas of medical science.
English-Speaking Gateway to Europe – Ireland is the second largest exporter of medical devices in Europe (after Germany), and post-Brexit, will be the only English-speaking country in the EU, making it a valuable partner for exporting to a Europe market of ~500 million people. Some Irish firms specialise in helping international companies manufacture and prepare to export their products to Europe.
Talented Workforce – Ireland has one of the youngest and most educated workforces in Europe, with over 50% of people receiving college-level degrees. Access to such talent is one of the many reasons that major multinational companies have set up operations in Ireland.
Digital Health – Ireland’s depth of expertise in digital health warrants its own list of reasons for consideration, but it is worth mentioning here. Whether it is a mobile application to help patients with Parkinson’s disease walk, at-home mental health programmes which diminish the stigma of visiting a college counsellor, or bed-side video discharge instructions so a patient can replay as much as they need without worrying about delaying a busy nurse, Irish companies are using digital health solutions to improve healthcare.
Pharma – Ireland is home to 9 of the top 10 international pharmaceutical companies, and the presence of these organisations has led to a strong industry in pharma IT, including companies that specialise in manufacturing efficiencies, packaging, labelling, and clinical trial management. Also, deserving of its own discussion, pharma is a very important business sector for Ireland and one in which Irish clients are very competitive.