Why Ireland’s medtech scene is a force to be reckoned withVish Gainon May 6, 2022 at 14:55 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic


Last week, 27 medtech start-ups from across Europe were pitted against each other in a room full of investors and industry leaders at the MedTech Innovator international pitching event in Dublin. Of them, six were from Ireland – the highest representation of any country.

One might think it natural that Irish companies were well-represented in an event in Ireland, but the CEO of MedTech Innovator, one of the world’s leading accelerators for medtech companies, thinks it has to do with Ireland’s undeniable strength in the sector more than anything else.

Paul Grand, a venture capitalist by profession, founded MedTech Innovator in 2013 to close the widening gap between medical device companies and sources of funding in the immediate aftermath of the financial crash.

Over the years, the California-headquartered non-profit has funded and mentored hundreds of start-ups in the medtech and health-tech space, with prestigious and established programmes available to companies across the US, Europe and Asia.

More than 1,000 companies apply to be part of its accelerator programmes every year, of which only 50 are lucky enough to join its programme and get access to a wealth, figuratively and literally, of opportunities to grow and scale their business ideas.

“At this point, MedTech Innovator is the largest accelerator in the world for medical technology, even including pharma – which we don’t include in our programme,” Grand told SiliconRepublic.com in an interview.

“Last year, of all the funding that happened in this sector globally, 20pc went to our portfolio. That’s one in five companies – showing that we have huge scale in this space.”

The accelerator boasts 420 companies in its portfolio, including big names in the global medtech space such as Medable, the multibillion-dollar decentralised medical trials company that has its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, and Osso VR, a virtual reality medical training company.

Ireland’s exceptional performance

Grand, who is a “big fan” of the Irish start-up ecosystem, said that Ireland is undeniably one of the strongest performing countries in MedTech Innovator every year.

“The Irish medtech ecosystem, particularly in Galway and Dublin, is amazing. Many MedTech Innovator companies that made it to the finals over the years have been from Ireland,” he said. “Almost every time, we have somebody up on the finals stage from Ireland.”

Last week, six of the 27 companies pitching at the MedTech Innovator event were from Ireland:  VertigeniusSymPhysis Medical, InjurySense, Phyxiom, Pumpinheart and Head Diagnostics.

Israel followed in second place with five start-ups, and France with three. SymPhysis Medical, which raised €1.9m last month, went on to win the event, while VertiGenius and Head Diagnostics were among the top five finalists.

This year, however, was no exception. Four companies from Galway,  Atrian Medical, Lifelet Medical, Neurent Medical and Tympany Medical – were selected for the MedTech Innovator 2021 programme to show off their innovations to global investors.

Grand said that Ireland’s unusually high performance in proportion to its size might have to do with the government initiatives through bodies such as Enterprise Ireland and third-level institutions that provide the necessary atmosphere for start-ups to thrive.

“This ecosystem is incredibly purposeful, just the way it was built by the government setting up infrastructure so that companies have all the support they need,” said Grand. “And then what we bring is off-island expertise on the US market to help Irish-based companies succeed abroad.”

Alan Hobbs of Enterprise Ireland told SiliconRepublic.com last year that an estimated 180 domestic life sciences companies in Ireland employ more than 25,000 people and generate sales above $6bn per year. These indigenous life sciences companies span pharma, biotech, diagnostics and therapeutics, but the lion’s share are medical device businesses.

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