Medical technology products are used in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases. Billions of patients worldwide depend on medical technology, at home, at the doctor’s, at hospital and in nursing homes.
Wheelchairs, defibrillators, contact lenses, pregnancy tests and plasters are examples of some medical technologies. More than 500,000 products are available on the market today.
Ireland has been extremely successful in developing an internationally renowned centre for medical technology, with over 250 companies currently developing and manufacturing medical technologies. Nearly half of these are Irish owned.
The Irish med tech sector has continued to perform well in 2011 in the market with exports of €7.3 billion. The Irish medical device sector employs almost 25,000 people, which makes Ireland, per capita, the biggest medical technology employer in the EU.
Medical devices and diagnostics companies in Ireland
Eleven of the world’s top 13 medical technologies (devices and diagnostics) companies are located in Ireland, such as Abbott, Hospira, Medtronic, J&J, Baxter, Boston Scientific and Stryker. Internationally recognised Irish multinationals in the sector include Creganna-Tactx Medical, Trulife and SteriPack.
Products manufactured in Ireland include interventional vascular products (e.g. pace makers, cardiovascular stents), diagnostics (pregnancy tests and test for HIV and other conditions), implants (e.g. orthopedic hips and knees for replacement surgeries), ophthalmic (contact lenses and therapies to treat cataract of the eye) and medical equipment among others.
Read more about:
- Abbott Ireland
- Baxter International Inc
- Boston Scientific
- Cook Medical
- Creganna-Tactx Medical
- Croom Precision Medical
- Innovative Polymer Compounds – IPC
- Shannon MicroCoil
Find out where companies are located in Ireland and what product or service they provide on the “Med Tech Sector Map”.
Careers in the sector
Depending on the type of company – whether it’s a device, diagnostic or a service company – different skills needs and career options are available.
1. Medical Devices
There is considerable diversity among medical devices production processes. While production of some medical device products is heavily automated, many devices are assembled, tested and packaged manually.
This diversity means that there are considerable variations in the mix of skills required between different medical devices production operations.
Key roles include Manual Assembly Operatives, Machine Operators, Technicians, Quality Control, Quality Assurance Staff, Operations Managers and Operations Supervisors.
Key specific engineering disciplines that are predominant in the sector include:
- Process Design
- Product Design
- Research & Development
- Quality Engineers
Qualifications of engineers are generally between primary degree and PhD level. Operators can be from level 5-7 on the NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications).
Where devices include significant biologically active components (these are components which cause biological change within the human body), companies employ scientists, science technicians and processing operatives with skills similar to those of the pharmaceutical or bio-pharmaceutical industries.
They undertake roles parallel to those of engineers, technicians and machine operators in manufacturing biomechanical and bioelectronic devices.
Qualifications of scientists are generally between primary degree and PhD level. With the increased use of biologically active substances in the medical device sector’s products, the needs for professionals with skills in biotechnology are in high demand.
This trend is making skills in biological sciences, chemistry and pharmacology all the more important to innovation in medical devices, alongside the clinical and engineering skills that have traditionally dominated innovation.
3. Other key professions
Given that it is a highly regulated industry, other roles that are prominent in the industry and provide good careers prospects include:
- Regulatory affairs professionals who track compliance of operations with regulatory requirements, advise other staff on regulatory matters, report on compliance and manage relationships with regulatory authorities
- Healthcare economists who have a leading role in establishing the benefits of a device quantitatively, and communicating these benefits to healthcare providers, health insurers and other reimbursement organisations
- HR, finance, purchasing and sales & marketing also offer good career prospects in the sector
Future careers in the industry
Medical technologies are becoming increasingly more complex, and many companies are now engaged in research and development (R&D).
Traditionally separate sectors such as medical devices, biotechnology, diagnostics, ICT, software and the pharmaceutical industry are recognising the opportunity to combine traditionally separate scientific disciplines to form new, more innovative “Smart Combination Technologies”. Advances have resulted in new services, therapies or products such as:
- Drug – Device Combination Products; examples include drug-eluting stent, which is designed to slowly release a drug to significantly reduce the rate of re-blockage of metal stents inserted into the coronary blood vessels of the heart to maintain blood flow
- ICT (Information Communications Technology)-Device Combination Products such as imaging devices that use Computer Aided Detection software to assist radiologists in the detection of cancers or remote diabetics monitoring kits. This enables patients to be monitored by their clinician at home, avoiding any unnecessary checkups at hospitals and surgeries
- Personalised Medicine will require sophisticated diagnostics that will help clinicians select therapies that are particularly suited to a patient. Examples include testing a patient’s DNA for the presence of a particular disease such as cancer. Then, using sophisticated imaging and informatics, clinicians will be able to determine which therapies patients are likely to respond better to
While existing careers identified above will continue to be required, there will also be a requirement for people with skills that will support the development of novel, more innovative technologies.
Expertise not traditionally associated with the sector will be required in the fields of regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, software, ICT, sophisticated diagnostics, imaging, mathematics, statistics, clinical trails management, pharmaceuticals, pharmacology, bioprocessing, biotechnologies, informatics and statistics.
Irish Medical Devices Association
Irish Medical Devices Association Careers Website
The European Medical Devices Association
The European Diagnostics Manufacturers Association
Information about programmes and courses at third level
Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme
Information about careers in Biomedical Engineering
Information about careers in the medical technology sector