Smart Health, the annual one-day conference which brings together a select group of key players from the health industry to discuss the latest innovations and products, was unable to physically take place this year because of Covid-19 restrictions.
But on June 16, 150 carefully selected participants came together for the Smart Health 2020 webinar which was due to run for an hour but was extended to three hours as there was so much to discuss regarding the latest insights and trends in the sector.
In previous years, fewer than 10 Irish companies have travelled to take part in the event, which is run by Swiss organisation Inartis Network, a lifesciences research network. This year, 25 companies from Ireland participated in the online event and two firms, S3 Group and Aerogen, presented as part of the programme, so Ireland was very well represented.
This was important as Irish companies have long been suppliers into most of the large international pharma companies, both on the international market and at home in Ireland, where the top 10 pharma companies have sizeable operations.
Indeed, many Irish SMEs started up with an innovative idea after having acquired experience working in one of those multinational companies, while many others form a vital part in these company supply chains - something which is very important right now with the current Covid-induced supply chain security considerations which have moved away from cheaper Asian supply to a more robust and predictable source.
This traditionally holds true particularly in medtech - 18 of the world's 25 largest companies have operations in Ireland, where a significant portion of Irish exports into Switzerland are medtech sub-supply. Clinical trial services such as those supplied by Icon would come to mind as does R&D or research logistics, manufacturing intelligence or clean room technology and myriad other specialised last-mile services or solutions.
There are some interesting developments coming out of Ireland, including from Aerogen, which has developed and is manufacturing the world's foremost nebuliser which transports drugs into the lungs via a vibrating mesh and its superior efficiency would have a dramatic impact in intensive care units, particularly during the current pandemic.
S3 Group, the other speaker from Ireland on the webinar, developed in only 10 days a software solution for HSE hospitals which could predict intensive care requirements for incoming patients, which in turn makes decisions across all hospital staff levels, for the most effective resource allocation, easier and more structured.
Sticking with Covid-related novel solutions, Technopath and its innovative clinical waste solution for PPE, which was adopted by Northwell Health in USA, is also worth mentioning, as are Hibergene and Serosep with their rapid Covid-19 tests - all great examples of Irish SMEs on a par with world-class innovators.
So while there are uncertainties surrounding the future of many businesses after Covid-19, I would encourage Irish pharma companies to invest in market research on trends and opportunities, start planning long-term with regard to sales and strategies and use LinkedIn sales navigator and the Enterprise Ireland overseas offices for contacts, networking and in-market events.
Cutting-edge research is very robust in Switzerland and the Swiss market is quite mature and sophisticated, so there are rich opportunities for joint initiatives which may spill over into sales opportunities - and that sometimes works better than direct commercial pitches to potential Swiss buyers who have become very selective in responding to too many pitches.
This is why events such as Smart Health 2020 are a fantastic means of exchanging ideas and solutions among peers. I would also suggest making intensive use of Enterprise Ireland's market research centre at Eastpoint and get in touch with your local Enterprise Ireland market advisers on how we can help advance your Swiss agenda.
Sunday Indo Business