Ireland’s thriving med-tech sector presents a “unique collaborative environment” for medical start-ups to enter the market and scale their products globally, Ireland’s Minister for Trade has said.

Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business, said there was “no better place in the world” for med-tech business to tackle global healthcare issues, testament to its strong focus on cross-industry collaboration and well-established foreign direct investment (FDI) multinationals.

Breen also commended Ireland’s “world class research base” and “strong industry focus” on healthcare innovation which, combined, is seeing the medical community go “from strength to strength”.

Breen was speaking before delegates at Dublin’s Med in Ireland conference on 10 October.

Ireland’s largest medical technologies event, Med in Ireland was established as a means of showcasing the “full spectrum” of the Irish med-tech sector.

The event is hosted by Enterprise Ireland, the state agency responsible for supporting Irish businesses in the manufacturing and internationally-traded service industries.

The med-tech sector in Ireland employs 40,000 people, making the country the largest med-tech employer in the EU per capita.

Breen added: “Med in Ireland is a great opportunity for international organisations to engage with Ireland’s existing and emerging leaders across the design, research, development, prototyping, manufacture and marketing of highly innovative medical products and services.

“In Ireland we present a unique collaborative environment for industry with our vibrant network of highly innovative indigenous companies, large well established FDI multinationals, a continually developing world-class research base and a strong industry-focused clinical community.”

Ireland is one of the leading clusters for med-tech products globally, and the second largest exporter.

A quarter of the world population with diabetes relies on kits made in Ireland, with 33% of all contact lenses, 50% ventilators for acute hospitals and 80% of all stints also coming from Ireland.

In 2018, Ireland’s life sciences sector recorded a 7% year-on-year growth in exports, totalling €1.73bn.

Stephen Creaner, executive director of Enterprise Ireland, said: “We see Irish companies as a gateway to Europe.

“The strategic partnerships we’ve established has made this environment very attractive to the healthcare sector in order to engage with this cohort.”

Brexit ‘a tragedy’

Those anticipating a Brexit reference were not left disappointed.

Speaking of trade opportunities with the UK and wider EU post-October 31, Minister Pat Breen called the UK’s pending exit a “tragedy” for Irish trade relations.

“They (the EU) don’t have the same business interests that we have with the UK,” Breen added.

“It’s a tragedy not just for the UK, but for Ireland as well.

“This may be the last opportunity to sell the foundations that could get a deal. Because we want to do a deal with the UK – it’s in all our interests and if we don’t, it’s going to be a huge challenge.

“I have no doubt Irish companies will face that challenge, and I have no doubt that there are huge markets out there for Irish companies.

“We are totally committed to the EU; our heart is in the EU.”