Wednesday, December 6, 2023

‘A safe pair of hands’ — Medtech’s investment in Ireland continues to grow

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Killilagh, Ireland. [Image by Sean Whooley]

Medtech established its presence in Ireland many years ago and still, companies continue to invest in the ever-growing country.

Boston Scientific established operations in Ireland in 1994, while Abbott has more than 70 years in the country. Medtronic, now officially headquartered in Dublin, has spent more than 40 years in Ireland and even hosted its 2023 annual meeting in the country.

Those companies, plus many more, continue to invest in Ireland, while more big names in medtech are coming to the table. Dexcom, for instance, earlier this year chose Athenry as its first European manufacturing location with a more than $325 million investment.

Speaking to MassDevice, Dexcom EVP of Global Operations, Barry Regan, explained what attracted the company to the growing medtech hub.

“One way I would describe Ireland when it comes to medtech operations and manufacturing is it’s a safe pair of hands,” Regan said. “You know what you’re going to get. It’s a very stable government with very low levels of unpredictability. We don’t like surprises.”

Last year, Rachel Shelly, head of medical technologies at IDA Ireland — the foreign investment arm for the Irish government — told MassDevice what attracts companies to Ireland and what keeps them there. One year on, she provided another update on how the country continues to grow its medtech ecosystem.

“The stability piece has definitely come to the fore in the last 12 months, where companies really do see the certainty,” Shelly said. “They know what the business environment looks like, they know the talent pool and that stability in terms of business policy. All of that, I think, is really, really important, but also the government’s investment and support for transformation, and helping companies to drive competitiveness, agility, productivity, efficiency and innovation.”

Four-pillar approach

Shelly outlined IDA Ireland’s four-pillar “transformation agenda,” which aims to ensure companies can upscale onsite. She stressed that the agenda goes beyond manufacturing, especially in the digital age, and touches on sustainability, quality and talent.

Rachel Shelly, head of medical technologies at IDA Ireland
Rachel Shelly, head of medical technologies at IDA Ireland. [Image courtesy of IDA Ireland]

Talent development is the first pillar, which speaks for itself, while the second pillar revolves around R&D. The government looks to support companies looking at next-generation devices, connected devices and smarter manufacturing processes. That leads into the third pillar — digitalization.

The Irish government invested in a new center called “Digital Manufacturing Ireland” (DMI) to help companies accelerate the adoption of new technologies.

“We help companies really to lean into the really big pressure now to try to drive productivity and efficiency within the manufacturing environment to make their manufacturing more agile and more resilient for the future,” she explained. “The way to do that is through new technologies like robotics, AI, VR or automation.”

The final pillar, sustainability, sets out to bring forward climate action plans and reach net zero, reducing carbon emissions and using renewable energy and power. Ireland as a country invests heavily in sustainability, Shelly said, and helping clients invest in sustainable practices for the future.

“We’re working with our clients, in many cases across all four pillars,” Shelly said. “Some companies are at a different stage of their development. They’re focusing on talent or they’re focusing on digitalization. Because we’ve got support across all of those pillars, we’re able to work on the roadmap of the clients and help them to move forward in line with their corporate strategic direction and the challenges that they’re trying to deal with at a corporate level.”

The Dexcom view on Ireland

Regan — who hails from Ireland originally — has worked across a number of medtech companies since moving to the U.S. in 1999. He joined Dexcom three years ago and has played a role in the company’s international growth, which includes new facilities in Malaysia and soon to be in Ireland.

Dexcom EVP of Global Operations Barry Regan
Dexcom EVP of Global Operations Barry Regan. [Image courtesy of Barry Regan]

Dexcom announced its investment in May, along with the creation of 1,000 jobs at the Athenry facility. Regan said the company recently received planning approvals and anticipates groundbreaking early next year. The expectation is that the factory will be completely built by the second half of 2025.

“It’s very aggressive because we’re growing so rapidly,” Regan explained. “We’ve already recruited 80% of our leadership team, and we’re inundated with applications. … We expect in Q1 2026 that we’ll be making commercial product.”

In addition to the “safe hands” of Ireland — Regan described the government as “pro-business” with strong infrastructure — the country allows Dexcom to establish a foothold in Europe. The company last year won CE mark for its next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitor and launched it shortly thereafter.

Dexcom Athenry Ireland Facility rendering
A rendering of the coming Dexcom facility in Athenry, Ireland. [Image courtesy of Dexcom]

Regan said the Ireland site supports European growth from several points of view, including transportation, logistics, costs and time to market.

“We’re very deliberate in that we want to have in-region manufacturing for each of our big regions,” Regan explained. “It just provides so many benefits and ties to sustainability. We won’t be shipping product 10,000 miles around the world if we can make it locally. There are a lot of partnerships and incentives to go as green as possible. We’ve committed to that in our site.”

Examples of growth in Ireland this year with the help of the EU

In 2022, medtech companies poured millions in investment into Ireland. Abbott, Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and Stryker all made investments, to name a few. That carried over into 2023.

On top of Dexcom’s investment, this past year saw a number of positive developments for medtech in Ireland. Abbott broke ground on a FreeStyle Libre manufacturing plant in Kilkenny. BD opened a new R&D facility in Dublin while expanding another facility in Enniscorthy. Boston Scientific made a new investment in Clonmel, adding 400 jobs in the country as well.

Siemens Healthineers and Alcon launched operations in the country within the past year or so, too.

Abbott groundbreaking ceremony Kilkenny Ireland FreeStyle Libre manufacturing facility
Abbott’s Kilkenny groundbreaking. [Image from Jared Watkin on LinkedIn]

Beyond IDA’s direct work with these companies to continue bringing in investment, the existing structure in Ireland offers an attractive option. The Irish government’s 25% R&D tax credit for companies engaging in in-house R&D represents a big draw for companies to come to Ireland.

Shelly describes Ireland as “really competitive” from a cost perspective with its corporate tax rate. Beyond Ireland, though, the European market as a whole is an attractive prospect, she said.

Michael Storan, VP of life sciences at IDA Ireland, explained some of the European benefits in a presentation at AdvaMed’s The MedTech Conference.

“Our population realizes the benefits from joining the European Union,” Storan said. “Ireland’s economy has developed significantly and allowed us to grow as an island location in Europe but being part of the bigger community and bigger markets. When medical technologies come to Ireland, it’s not just the domestic market they’re targeting.”

As Regan and Dexcom can attest, the country remains an appealing place to do business.

You’ve got all of that infrastructure that we need to do business,” Regan said. It takes a long time. It takes decades to build that. That’s what drove our choice.”

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