Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

Biomaterials and medical devices

22 Jun 2023, 13:21

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

woman working in a lab

Medical device industry:

Industry growth:

The medical technology sector in Ireland is recognised as one of the five global emerging hubs. The sector employs over 29,000 people in Ireland and is the second largest employer of medtech professionals in Europe. Ireland is one of the largest exported of medical products in Europe with annual exports of €12.6 billion and companies here directly export to over 100 countries worldwide. As many as 18 of the world’s top 25 medical technology companies have a base in Ireland and 50% of the 450 medtech companies based here are indigenous. Ireland also boasts an incredible strong services and contract research and manufacturing base; in fact 50% of the companies located here are in the business to business space. Pressures on healthcare systems have resulted in a greater focus on enhanced efficacy of treatments and cost reduction.

Growth set to continue

Over 2,000 jobs have been announced every year since 2014 along with €960 million investment announced in the industry, in 2014-2015 alone. A lot of the recent investment is by existing companies investing in R&D and innovation. While innovation is core the industry in Ireland, the Irish Government are also committed to enhancing Ireland’s manufacturing competitiveness and as such have established a cross sectorial Manufacturing Forum with representatives from many stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop our infrastructure, competencies and skillsets here. Government’s investment in R&D through Science Foundation Ireland over the past five years was paying dividends as it had allowed Ireland to develop significant facilities for medtech research, including Ireland’s first stem cell manufacturing centre at NUI Galway which opened in January in 2015. The SFI CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices - will position Ireland as the leader in developing medical device technologies which will provide affordable transformative solutions for chronic diseases

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, maintaining that “innovation will always rule the day.”

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:

For further information visit IMDA Skillnet

For further information visit IMDA SpringBoard

  • 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)
  • 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.

Further information:

Irish Medical Devices Association

Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials

IMDA SpringBoard

IMDA Skillnet

IDA Ireland: Medical Technologies section

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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