Driving Innovation in Irish Medtech

Tim Hyde
Tim Hyde

Vice President & Plant Manager at Sanmina Fermoy

For a country of 5 million people, Ireland has punched above its weight over the past few decades in the global medtech industry. Many years ago, Ireland recognized that both research and development (R&D) and innovation were critical to medtech’s success. In addition to providing financial support via research, development and innovation tax credits, the Irish government developed a collaborative network between health services organizations, leading universities and technical institutes to embed R&D and innovation into Irish educational curriculums. As a result, Ireland now has a number of world renowned universities and institutions that produce a steady steam of highly skilled talent directly into the local medtech ecosystem.

Several industry associations have also made major contributions to Ireland’s flourishing medtech scene. Both Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) have created a pro-business environment and the Irish Medtech Association has championed the needs of multinationals and SME member companies to the government. These industry efforts have resulted in some very healthy statistics as reported by IDA Ireland:

  • Nine of the top ten global medical companies have a base in Ireland.
  • 300+ companies are located in the Irish medtech sector.
  • 70 percent of these companies have R&D activity.
  • Medtech exports account for 12.6 billion Euro, making Ireland the second largest European medtech exporter after Germany.
  • 32,000 employees work in Irish medtech, the highest number in any European country.

Sanmina Fermoy: At the Heart of the Medtech Ecosystem

More than thirty years ago, Sanmina (then known as SCI) established its first operations in Ireland. Since then, the Fermoy site has evolved in this vibrant atmosphere to become a significant supplier of medtech solutions and a valuable part of the supply chain.

Sanmina Fermoy was the first Sanmina plant to manufacture high-volume, Class III medical devices several years ago and now supports the development and manufacturing of a broad range of products that have a positive impact on people’s lives. This includes blood and molecular diagnostics products, medical imaging and patient monitoring equipment and high-volume Class II and Class III medical devices, including wearables.

The Fermoy team has invested heavily in resources to design a highly automated and high-volume manufacturing facility that meets stringent medical regulatory requirements. Industry 4.0 changes have not only driven improvements to systems and technology but have also enhanced the professional development of staff. The Fermoy team uses a modular training approach, including online tools and online training, to provide maximum flexibility to employees and to facilitate continued learning and growth.

As a result of these continuous improvement programmes and extensive plant upgrades that include multiple clean room complexes, management of sterilized products and the addition of an onsite microbiology laboratory, Fermoy has dramatically grown its business activity. The site has completed more than 1,000 medical regulatory process validations and has also earned the esteemed honor of being one of Sanmina’s first Class A sites in terms of performance excellence. In 2018, the Fermoy team won the Irish Medtech Association “Partner of the Year” award for its collaboration on an innovative medical device with a major medical brand.

Automated SMT manufacturing line at Sanmina Fermoy.

MedTech Trends

Sanmina Fermoy is involved in specific areas of the medtech space that hold great promise for the future, especially as technology innovation gains momentum across medical products, devices and operations. Key trends include:

  • Digital health. Digital Health is revolutionizing healthcare with more personalized technologies and remote monitoring of patients. Ireland has a world class network of innovation centres that focus on many aspects of digital health, from medical research to cybersecurity and data science.
  • Miniaturisation of wearable medical devices. There is a big push to make smaller versions of portable and wearable medical devices that have less impact on the wearer, while still providing the data and functionality that gives users more knowledge and control over their health.
  • Increase in wellness devices. Once medical wearables successfully pass all regulatory hurdles, consumer markets are able to more easily leverage this innovation and develop new products like fitness trackers and electronic watches with health monitoring capabilities for daily consumer use.
  • Industry 4.0. From a production standpoint, automation and intelligent analysis of data from manufacturing equipment is essential to ensure that quality and regulatory standards are adhered to for medical products during production. It’s a constant journey that is always evolving, due to the complexity involved with products that directly impact patients’ lives.

It’s an exciting time to be in the medtech industry as new technology solutions, personalised wearable devices and real time health data change the way that medical institutions, doctors and patients manage healthcare. In Ireland, the government has done a superior job of fostering a rich culture of collaboration that has attracted both multinational companies and innovative startups to the region. Sanmina Fermoy’s strengths in advanced electronics manufacturing, quality and regulatory compliance, Industry 4.0 practices and ongoing dedication to the professional development of employees ensures its continued success in the thriving Irish medtech sector.

The Fermoy team recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Learn more:

Enterprise Ireland

Industrial Development Authority

Irish Medtech Association