As the curtain draws on undoubtedly the most challenging year for industry in recent memory, it is clear that the medtech sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to The Irish Times as part of its Life Sciences Special Report Chief Technologist at Skillnet Ireland, Mark Jordan recently reflected on how the sector responded to the pandemic.
“Organisations were looking to pivot, changing how they did their research and how they reallocated their staff, whether it was towards ventilator production or research into a potential vaccine.”
“They had to create pods with the right blend of skill sets and experience, which was a challenge, and began using new technology to ensure that those now based at home could communicate seamlessly with those on the production line. We saw 10 years of innovation in 10 weeks.”
A firm focus on technology-adoption and a commitment to building long-lasting collaborative partnerships within the sector have enabled medtech companies to become more agile and dynamic when it has mattered most.
Ireland as a leader in medtech innovation
Ireland is an established leader in medtech innovation and a major supporter of industry growth across Europe. More than 80 pharma and 300 medtech companies now operate here, directly supporting a workforce of over 50,000 people. With our growing heritage and proven track record in medtech innovation, Ireland has the potential to become a leader in the development of digital-health solutions, attracting international investment and growth in high-tech indigenous companies.
“Ireland’s unique ecosystem with leading digital health, medtech, pharma and tech companies can make us a global digital-health powerhouse,” Sinéad Keogh, IBEC Director of Medtech and Engineering and promoter of the Connected Health Skillnet told the Irish Times.
“Digital health is the intersection of healthcare and technology and involves the innovative use of technology to deliver better patient care. The goal is to translate the benefits that technology has brought to other industries and bring them to healthcare, resulting in improved outcomes for patients and the providers of healthcare.”
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telemedicine and remote monitoring, which has resulted in a culture shift in how patients are being treated. As emerging and disruptive technologies continue to challenge the status quo, it is vital that lifelong learning is embraced to protect and nurture the competitiveness of Ireland’s digital health sector.
Shaping the future of healthcare
Through our partnerships within industry, Government, and academic institutions, Skillnet Ireland is ideally placed to garner insights that translate into co-created cutting-edge development programmes that help medtech businesses thrive, while also supporting career enhancement for the workforce.
Connected Health Skillnet has already engaged with 175 companies from across the medtech, tech, pharma and digital health sectors to upskill over 700 professionals in critical areas to equip the ecosystem and will continue to do so in support of the new initiative which aims to capitalise on the opportunity to further cement Ireland’s position as a global digital-health leader.
“Understanding data and identifying actionable insights is an essential element of developing digital health solutions,” said Jennifer McCormack, Network Manager of Connected Health Skillnet at the launch of ‘Where Digital Health Thrives’, a joint initiative from Ibec Irish Medtech Association, BioPharmaChem Ireland and Technology Ireland.
“We need to ensure that we have a workforce that is equipped to interpret healthcare data to understand trends and to leverage that data to develop new solutions, new therapies or generate real-world evidence. Delivering cross-sectoral, enterprise-led training is essential for the digital health industry in Ireland to achieve its potential”, she added.
Rebuilding for the present
BioPharmaChem Skillnet has played a key role in addressing the skills challenges highlighted by workforce displacement and the impact of COVID-19 protocols on medtech and pharma companies. The growing emphasis on a combination of technical and functional skills with soft skills such as staying connected in a virtual work environment, has been matched by the delivery of innovative programme solutions that have enabled businesses to rebuild for the present and better prepare for the future.
Susan Costello, manager of BioPharmaChem Skillnet told The Irish Times: “2020 has seen the most certified programmes we’ve ever run, all delivered remotely because companies are really investing in lifelong learning.”
The growing demand for specialist skills in the pharma, biopharma and digital health sectors will continue in a post-Covid world, and as recent developments in the efforts to develop and market a COVID-19 vaccine have demonstrated, a continuous focus on the delivery of innovative patient-centred products and solutions requires an ongoing commitment to talent development.
At Skillnet Ireland, we believe the promotion of lifelong learning, alongside investment in innovation are key drivers of productivity in the Life Sciences sectors and will help to shape the future of healthcare. Through engagement with industry, our Skillnet Networks are positively leveraging the strengths of enterprise to deliver innovation into these growth areas. By looking at the trends that are shaping industry, the right talent responses are designed to help businesses stay ahead of the curve.
While 2020 has been wrought with challenges for the medtech sector, it has also presented opportunities. At Skillnet Ireland, we’re committed in our support of businesses as they seek to fulfil their full potential and that of the wider ecosystem in the face of change. Learn more about our Networks operating in the biopharma and medtech sectors.
To read more from the Irish Times’ Special Report on Life Sciences, please click here.