| 4.3°C Dublin

Vital signs good for Irish health tech firms


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Irish health and medical technology firms signed deals worth millions of euro last week at Arab Health 2020 in Dubai, the biggest exhibition of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Their success is a reflection both of the growing demand for innovative healthcare expertise in the MENA region, and Ireland's strong position to supply it.

Of the 14 Irish companies hosted on the Ireland pavilion at the exhibition, one - Fleming Medical, a leading innovator of healthcare devices and consumables - secured contracts valued at over $2.43m.

Two other health companies, MyPatientSpace and MEG Support Tools, signed commercial agreements with a major hospital and a well-known healthcare service provider in the UAE.

The scale of the opportunity in the region right now is enormous.

As well as its own population of 580 million, MENA cities such as Dubai are established centres for high tech medical tourism. In the UAE alone, healthcare spending is predicted to reach $2.4bn by 2025 and $3.6bn by 2030.

Ireland is well placed to capitalise on this opportunity. In the medical technologies, or medtech, sector Ireland already has an established reputation as a leading global player, with nine of the world's top 10 medtech companies based here.

It's a sector that generates exports of €12.6bn annually and supports more than 40,000 jobs across a total of 350 Irish-owned medtech companies.

Many of these companies have particular capabilities in relation to connected care, including mobile health solutions, telemedicine and personalised medicine, for which there is growing demand in the MENA region.

According to the CSO, Irish exports to the Gulf, which include exports from multinationals based in Ireland, grew by 16pc from January to November of last year.

Nearly half of these exports, worth over €640m, were healthcare related.

Arab Health 2020 proved to be a key platform from which to forge ever closer links to local healthcare suppliers, and to showcase Ireland's world leading medtech solutions to the region.

The deals agreed last week are all the more impressive when you consider that doing business successfully in the Middle East depends on building strong relationships, a process that takes time.

Selling in the region requires a long-term commitment to build up trust. Participating in Arab Health 2020 was a clear way of demonstrating such commitment. Other Irish companies travelling were rewarded with valuable new distribution partnerships.

The fact that Ireland already has strong healthcare links with the region helps inordinately. For example, the ambulances of the Dubai Ambulance Service are equipped with hardware and software from Irish company ACETECH. Their paramedics train following Irish guidelines and are accredited by Ireland's National Ambulance Service.

The Irish companies attending this week's trade show undoubtedly benefited too from the established tradition of students from the Gulf region coming to Ireland to study medicine, before returning to work in the healthcare sector of their native countries.

Many Enterprise Ireland client companies travelling to the region have found they are often pushing an open door on discovering that the person they are selling to qualified as a doctor from the Royal College of Surgeons, University College Dublin, University College Cork or the National University of Ireland Galway.

The strength of those links was in evidence last year, when nearly 40 medical organisations from the Gulf travelled to attend Med in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland's major biannual showcase of Irish medtech.

It helps too that wherever you go in the world, chances are you are within metres of Irish Medtech in action.

That's because 25pc of the people in the world who have diabetes rely on injection devices that are made in Ireland. Three-quarters of global orthopaedic knee production comes out of Ireland. And a third of the world's contact lenses are made here.

With Irish medtech exports already shipping to over 100 countries, and much more of them set to ship to MENA, the prognosis is clear; it's a sector that is in rude good health.

Eamon Sikafi is Enterprise Ireland's senior market adviser, Lifesciences/Healthcare, for the MENA region.

Sunday Indo Business