An international medical hub for developing new medial devices across a range of healthcare fields is being opened in Wexford.
i360 Medical, based at Spawell Road, is expanding, bringing up to ten staff, along with surgeons and other medical experts from around the world, to the town later this year to brainstorm and develop new medical devices - which will ultimately be sold on to large medical manufacturing companies.
i360 Medical owner Derek Young said he chose to locate his company in Co Wexford because of the quality of life and reduced costs of operating from here, pointing out that creative minds need to have great leisure options nearby and Wexford has those in spades.
Mr Young invented a key hole surgery device when he was 23, working with an engineer from America and a clinician from Denmark. After seven years the idea was developed into a product which was sold on. This international, collaborative approach has informed his business decisions ever since. 'Over the years once we had one success then lots of other ideas started coming to us. For over ten years I was involved in starting up lots of specific ideas in clinical practise from orthopaedic, cardio, general surgery, urology, women's health. We always took an idea from a napkin and move it right through to a real life product through clinical trials, get regulatory approval, putting that into a start-up and then selling it on to a bigger player.'
He entered the Royal College of Surgeons where he established an innovation group where people came to him with ideas. In 2012 he opened i360 Medical. 'We have an international business. We create eco systems for innovation and work with large hospital systems like NorthWell in New York. We take part in the innovations that come from that. We create a portal so ideas come from doctors, nurses etc and are reviewed and a decision is made which to progress. On average we have 300 ideas a year per system coming to us which is a lot to get through. In essence of those 300 ideas, we whittle them down to five real live projects that make it to the stages of taking into a company, building it up, taking it into human trails and selling it on to a bigger company again.'
Clinicians come to i360 with an idea and in recent times i360 Medical has invested in women's health and orthopaedics start-ups. 'We take that on the same journey. The equity position is different. We work in partnership with the clinician and raise capital and take it through to a start-up, put resources in that start-up and then exit that start-up and then take it through to human trial,'
Having proven itself in the US, the company is now doing the same in Europe, so much so that the European Institute of Innovation Technology (EIT) are looking for i360 to come up with ideas. 'We have around 400 ideas from them. We have become the turnkey operation from taking an idea from the start to getting it to a human being. We have exploded during Covid because a lot of people have seen our model as a very quick, very efficient and very safe way and a fair way to get an idea from start to finish and everybody succeeds out of that in a very transparent and focussed approach. Our time-lines are a lot quicker and costs are a lot less. During Covid everyone is looking for solutions quickly, but also they have to be safe. They are looking at i360 Medical as a way of doing this.'
The company are getting ideas from Orange County, California and New Zealand, Japan, Europe. 'They are looking at us to move these ideas forward.'
i360 has offices in Dublin, New York and Galway and in 2018 they opened an office in Wexford around the time Mr Young and his family relocated to live in Blackwater. 'I see Spawell Road as a greenfield site. We feel we can develop an innovation hub.'
i360 has a whole floor in Block B of Spawell. 'I brought my team before Covid happened and they are doing brainstorming sessions here. After Covid we are looking at bringing at least two of the start ups down here between now and the end of the year and on top of that we are looking to bring in, if the government allows us to do, to bring in surgeons from Europe to have a brainstorming session around cardiology and also in orthopaedics.'
The company is bringing start-ups to Wexford, where teams of four to five will spend up to two years developing ideas until they are ready to be made. 'You are also leveraging other local contractors around that so you're bringing in three or four of those. We plan innovation forums and work with the EIT. It's not just about start-ups, it's about creating an eco system and it's really reaching out to other sources of innovation around the world. We see a lot of ideas that are duplicated and there are elements of the same idea that could be better designed so you might see an idea in Israel and another idea in Ireland and there are elements that are benefit to both we bring those two ideas together as one and that is what we are looking to do in Wexford here now.'
For each start-up there are initially five people working on them, but once the project is advanced the number increases to around ten.
With two start-ups moving to Wexford, this means i360 will have up to 20 additional staff working from its Wexford hub this year or in early 2021. 'They are engineers, marketing, quality and clinical experts. We can do a lot of 3-D printing first so we don't need much space. They work on the start-up from start to finish. What normally happens is that project gets sold and another idea comes out of that start up. Two or three projects emerge out of that, so you are adding more people to the teams because there are other projects spinning out of it.'
Keeping costs down is key; 'We leverage off of the local engineering and logistics firms as we don't need all the equipment all of the time. In essence we subcontract work out to them.'
Mr Young's vision for Co Wexford is to create an eco, innovation hub in Wexford with a global focus. 'One where you can bring clinicians, doctors, IT health people to Wexford to create health brainstorming forums. This will create the awareness of Wexford, in itself, for being a hub for innovation. I have seen this in Florida with Baptist Health with the local economy.'
He said there will be a boost to the local economy. 'These are young surgeons, young engineers, young doctors and they want to experience the expertise. We are bringing all of the expertise into one area, leveraging the local community and making that a central hub in the global stage.'
Once at concept stage, the ideas these young bright minds have developed can be manufactured in Galway or Wexford, depending on the skill sets that are created.
'Wexford can be the real epicentre. These projects are always acquired by the big players and that, in itself, will attract the big multinationals to Co Wexford.'
Most of the acquisitions are done from the US but the manufacturing is done in Ireland. We create idea flow. 'My first job was as a design engineer in Wexal. Why here? You have lovely beaches and lots of places for downtime, which is an important factor of innovation. You need that headspace to do it and I think Wexford has a lot to offer, all those elements that give you a quality of life.'
Proximity to Dublin, a good road system with access to Dublin Airport, cheaper cost of living also factored into his decision to locate his business here. 'If you can remove those elements from people's lives they are going to become much more comfortable about taking risks and in innovation and more creative and more focussed on new things. You need to give people the balance in life to make that happen and remove the stresses.'
He thanked Ed Murphy of Invest Wexford and Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright for their support so i360 can dovetail within the local community. 'I think the skill-sets are here but they are being deployed to other parts of the country every day. If people we bring in set up base within Wexford it will enhance the local economy.'