Science, research and development
Girl in lab

Biomaterials and medical devices

Careers for science graduates in the medical devices and biomaterials sectors in Ireland.

Medical device industry:

Industry growth:

The medical device sector is one of Ireland’s leading industries. Ireland is a globally established medical technology (medtech) manufacturing location. There are 250 medtech companies established here, half of which are indigenous, and according to 2013 data, have an annual export value of 7.9billion. Over half of the Irish based medtech companies have dedicated research and development (R&D) facilities, which according to Enterprise Ireland, have ‘positioned Ireland as a world class centre of excellence for medical devices.’ The Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA) envisions Ireland continuing to grow as a ‘global leader in innovative patient-centred medical technology products and solutions,’ underlining the rapid growth within the industry.

The industry is responsible for developing and producing a vast range of medical devices, from wheelchair and hospital beds to pacemakers and artificial hip joints. The need for a dynamic framework is therefore, principal to its development as a global leader in the medtech industry. Themes of innovation and change are at the core of the industry. David Pierce, Senior Vice President and President of Endoscopy at Boston Scientific reinforced this in a presentation made at the IMDA CEO forum 2012, maintaining that “innovation will always rule the day.” (IMDA, Annual Review2012)

Biomaterial industry:

The study of biomaterials is a growing area of science work in Ireland. A biomaterial is something that is either natural or man-made that can be used to perform a natural function in a living organism. In Ireland there is research and development currently taking place for this industry in third-level institutions, multinational organisations and indigenous companies. This is a multidisciplinary area of work that includes engineers, scientists, IT specialists, legal graduates and medical graduates

Job opportunities:

The IMDA say companies plan to drive growth in this sector with a business strategy focused on attracting and developing the best talent from universities in Ireland. Therefore, there are many opportunities for Irish based employment within this industry, whether that is within a fast-paced start up company or a well established multi-national firm.

Work activities:

  • Inventing and designing new medical equipment and devices
  • Clinical trials
  • Refining production processes
  • Carrying out research and quality investigations
  • Device testing
  • Developing and improving existing devices
  • Working with other medical personnel and patients
  • Assessing the market for gaps and demand for products
  • Maintenance of equipment

Work conditions

Travel: is a factor when moving between workplace settings, for example laboratories, workshops and hospitals.

Working hours: usually regular but can vary according to demands of certain projects.
Location: may vary between office, workshop and laboratory environments.

Major employers:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • GE Healthcare
  • Medtronic
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Boston Scientific
  • GE Healthcare

Key positions:

  • Diagnostics: scientists, science technicians and processing operatives
  • Regulatory affairs professionals
  • Medical marketing & international sales professionals
  • Healthcare economists
  • Clinical trial management
  • Statisticians
  • Logistics
  • HR, finance, purchasing and international languages

Entry requirements and training:

A relevant degree in biomedical/applied science, computation, mathematics, life/medical science or engineering (particularly mechanical or chemical) is necessary. A postgraduate qualification can be beneficial – particularly for non-engineering graduates.

Education and training:

Richard Burton, Minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, maintains that “life sciences and medical devices are sectors where we have built up very substantial strength over a period of many years; the challenge now is to build on that to achieve the jobs growth we need.” (IMDA, Annual Report 2012) Subsequently, the medtech industry considers it a priority to establish relationships with universities in Ireland to attract the highest quality students to its sector.

IMDA chairman, John O’Dea, expressed an interest in working with 3rd level educational institutions to implement entrepreneurship modules in final-year engineering courses, to develop graduates suited for this innovative, cutting edge sector. There are a range of additional training opportunities made available by the IMDA to ensure job growth within the sector, such as:

  • Life Sciences Skillnet Programme: provides support to manufacturers in their bid to remain competitive. This programme offers training to unemployed individuals in quality control, technical skills and R&D. It has been responsible for 842 employee trainees and delivered 2,700 training days. (IMDA, Annual Report 2012)
  • For further information visit IMDA Skillnet

  • IMDA Springboard: enables unemployed individuals with a technical background the opportunity to transfer and further develop their skills, qualifying them to work within the medical device sector.
  • For further information visit IMDA SpringBoard

Further information:

Irish Medical Devices Association

Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials

IMDA SpringBoard

IMDA Skillnet

IDA Ireland: Medical Technologies section