For the medical devices industry, there are few places on the planet as important as the Mirandola Biomedical District.
North of the Italian city of Modena in the Emilia Romagna region, Mirandola is home to a significant cluster of more than 300 related companies.
In fact, it’s the largest biomedical district in Europe and third in the world after Minneapolis and Los Angeles in the United States, making it an incredibly important and fertile market for Irish medical device and medical technology (medtech) businesses.
Italy is also the third largest market for medical equipment in the EU, after Germany and France.
This week, 12 Irish medtech companies visited Mirandola to meet local business leaders as part of an Enterprise Ireland trade delegation aimed at driving further trade and collaboration.
After all, Ireland is also of strategic importance in this sector, as it is one of the top five global medtech hubs, along with Massachusetts, Minnesota, California and Israel.
Mirandola created €1.6bn in added value for the Italian economy in 2020
Along with holding more than 40 meetings between representatives of 12 Irish and 16 Italian companies, the group also made site visits to some of the most important medical device manufacturers in the Emilia-Romagna region.
Among these visits was a factory tour of Orthofix, a US orthopaedics company which has a significant presence in Italy.
Marking the strategic importance of the trade visit, the Ambassador of Ireland to Italy, Patricia O’Brien, hosted a gala dinner for C-level Irish and Italian medical devices executives while the Irish delegation was in Italy.
Mirandola created €1.6bn in added value for the Italian economy in 2020. Companies in the cluster specialise in disposable plastic products for medical and healthcare use.
They are also looking ahead, and investing in regenerative medicine, for example. This looks to break down the boundaries between biomedical and pharma, medical devices and therapies.
This signposts particular opportunity for Irish firms. There are about 450 medtech, and medtech-related, companies in Ireland.
They design and produce products across a swathe of medicine and healthcare, including infusion solutions, haemodialysis, anaesthesia, continuous renal replacement therapies, cardiovascular and more.
There are about 450 medtech, and medtech-related, companies in Ireland
About 60pc of these are Irish firms, with the remainder being multinationals.
Many of the local companies are young, start-up companies that are developing advanced innovative medical technologies for global markets.
Sales from these businesses account for about €2.1bn of the almost €13bn in annual exports of medical technologies from Ireland.
Overall, the medical devices sector employs more than 40,000 people in Ireland and companies here lead the way on multiple fronts.
Firms located in Ireland manufacture 80pc of cardiovascular stents used globally, along with 75pc of knee implants, 50pc of ventilators used in acute hospital wards and 25pc of injection devices for diabetics.
Site visits such as those during this week’s trade event in Italy are vitally important for Irish companies to understand the needs of Italian companies and allows them to discover how they might tailor their offerings to enable them to enter or grow within the Italian market.#
Once companies are approved as suppliers, they typically enjoy long-standing relationships
While the sales cycle can be long in this sector, it’s worth bearing in mind that medical device companies typically develop stable products that remain on the market for a decade or more, and rely on a strong, stable supply chain to keep products flowing to the market.
That means once companies are approved as suppliers, they typically enjoy long-standing relationships, often getting orders spanning five to 10 years.
Enterprise Ireland client companies interested in exporting into the Italian medical devices sector should contact the Enterprise Ireland office in Milan, which has extensive connections in Mirandola and beyond.
Whether you need to connect with decision-makers in production, or insights around logistics or any other department, Enterprise Ireland can offer support and help make the introductions you need.
Alessio Nori is Senior Market Adviser, Life Sciences, Enterprise Ireland, and Conor Byrne is Market Executive, Enterprise Ireland