Medtech sector shows strength in response to the pandemic

Medtech sector shows strength in response to the pandemic

By: Damien
20 Mar, 2021

Medtech businesses in Ireland have been in the vanguard of the fight against Covid-19 in the past year. And with a proliferation of medtech companies in Ireland, there are plenty of opportunities for investment or acquisition.

The medical technology sector was thrust into the spotlight like never before in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world.

It became quickly apparent that medical devices such as ventilators were needed – and in great numbers – to help save lives.

In response, many medtech companies in Ireland pivoted to start focusing on designing and developing new devices to help. Indeed, Ireland’s medtech sector excelled itself in its response to the pandemic and is one of the top five producers of Covid-related devices in the world, the OECD has reported. The others in the top five were Germany, the US, Switzerland and China.

One Dublin-based company, HiberGene Diagnostics, has developed rapid diagnostic tests for Covid-19 that can provide results in about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Medtronic, which has five sites in Ireland in Galway, Athlone and Dublin, employs some 4,000 people specialising on the production of ventilators to help cope with the unprecedented globally in the early days of the pandemic, upping production from 200 per week in February 2020 to 1,000 in June.

The company also shared the design for its compact, portable ventilator, giving other manufacturers insights to help them in their response to the pandemic.

Global medtech hub

This demonstrates the strength of the medtech sector in Ireland, which has been well established in the country – as well as a destination of choice for many of the world’s leading companies in the sector – for many years.

There are more than 500,000 medical technologies – from glasses to scanners – that are used to prevent, diagnose, monitor and treat all manner of diseases and conditions across the world.

Ireland is one of the world’s top five medtech hubs with about 450 companies involved in the sector employing about 40,000 people, according to the Irish Medtech Association (www.irishmedtechassoc.ie). Ireland is the second largest exporter of medtech in Europe, with €12.6 billion of exports each year to more than 100 countries. About 80% of stents globally are manufactured in Ireland, and about 33% of all contact lenses.

While many of the world’s top medtech businesses have a base in Ireland – including Siemens, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson – more than 60% of businesses in the sector were set up in the country. About half of Irish medtech companies operate in the business-to-business space.

Medtech has also been attracting impressive levels of investment. In 2019, €557 million was invested in Irish medtech companies by FDI multinationals, of which €142 million went to SMEs or start-ups, according to the Irish Medtech Association. [www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/medtech-rising-investment-ireland]

Raising finance

Despite Covid-19, Irish companies were still managing to raise investment in 2020. For instance, Galway-based start-up Venari Medical raised €4.5 million in a seed equity funding round concluded in October, which was led by Japanese medtech manufacturer Nipro.

Domestic investors in the funding round included Enterprise Ireland and the Western Development Commission as well as other medical device experts and vascular surgeons from around the world.

Venari Medical plans to use the funding to create 20 new roles, including technical positions, and speed up development of its BioVena device – including clinical validation – which is for treating chronic venous disease. It’s a condition that affects more than 30% of people around the world.

The market opportunity for Venari is huge – spending on CVD management in the US and UK alone per year is estimated to amount to €28 billion.

Another Galway-based start-up medtech business secured millions in investment earlier this month from domestic and foreign sources. Atlantic Therapeutics, which has developed Innovo, a wearable device to treat urinary incontinence, received €2 million from the Western Development Corporation – the largest single amount it has ever invested – as well as undisclosed amounts from Seroba Life Sciences, Earlybird, LSP, Andera Partners and Atlantic Bridge, which have all previously invested in the company.

This investment will be used to expand the business into new territories. It has already been approved by the US FDA for use in the US. [www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/atlantic-therapeutics-2m-wdc]

The Western Development Corporation (www.westerndevelopment.ie) is a long-established statutory body that has made numerous investments in medtech businesses – among other sectors – in the west of Ireland in recent years, designed to improve economic and social standards in the region.

IDA Ireland has also been an active investor in the sector; along with the pharma sector, medtech businesses shared investments worth €200 million from a special Covid-19 fund in September 2020.

While there was a dip in M&A activity in the sector in 2020 due to the pandemic, there were some deals that went through. In November, Medica Group, a UK-based teleradiology services provider, bought Irish rival Global Diagnostics Ireland (GDI) for an initial €16 million.

The deal forms part of Medica’s strategy to expand the company’s geographic reach. It also broadens Medica’s service offering, as GDI also provides diabetic retinopathy services.

Why invest in Irish medtech businesses

As these examples show, there is still appetite to invest in or acquire Irish medtech businesses from inside and outside Ireland.

It is easy to see why. Apart from the wealth of innovative companies of all sizes in the country, the medtech sector has had significant support from the government. It has invested heavily in research and development in recent years through Science Foundation Ireland and specialist research centres have been established, including a stem cell manufacturing centre at NUI Galway and the SFI CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices.

Companies can also access grant assistance from the government to undertake research and development activities – indeed, 70% of Irish medtech businesses are involved in some sort of R&D.

Support doesn’t just come from the government; the sector is close-knit in Ireland and companies regularly collaborate with each other in order to develop world-class solutions.

With such a concentration of medech companies in Ireland, it means there is a deep pool of experienced talent available in a range of disciplines, and there is a steady stream of newly qualified graduates coming through from Ireland’s seven universities and 13 Institutes of Technology to add to that talent pool.

In addition, the cost of commercial property is reasonable in Ireland, even in the capital, Dublin. There are medtech clusters around Ireland – such as Galway and Cork. – where property is cheaper.

Ireland is also part of the European Union and is now the only native English-speaking country left in the bloc since the UK’s departure. This makes it attractive for investors from other English-speaking countries such as the US and Canada. But what makes it more appealing is that Ireland is part of the single market and has frictionless trade with the other 26 members of the EU. This makes exporting medtech solutions to these countries easy.

UK companies are also looking to Ireland as a base as, having left the EU, they no longer have the advantages and are experiencing greater expense and difficulty in exporting to EU countries.

Get advice

For those looking to set up a medtech business in Ireland, or invest in an existing company, then it is crucial to get the right advice.

Those looking to invest should seek out advisers with specialist knowledge of the sector in Ireland – including its history and leading players. Malone & Co Accountants can assist on all the relevant aspects from setting up a company to providing diligence services as part of an M&A deal or funding round in the sector. We can also provide in-depth information to ensure any deal achieves the value hoped for at the outset.

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