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Professor Martin O’Halloran

Executive Director, BioInnovate Ireland

John MacNamara

VP of Research and Development, Medtronic and
Chairperson of the BioInnovate Ireland’s Advisory Board

Garrett Murray

Head of Life Sciences Sector, Enterprise Ireland

As a global leader in medical technology (medtech), Ireland is looking to fund the most talented people from around the world to develop innovative solutions that match the needs of clinicians and patients worldwide.

Ireland hosts approximately 450 medical device companies and 200 digital health companies; the majority of which originate in Ireland itself. “Ireland is recognised internationally as a global medtech hub. This success is demonstrated by the international competitiveness of our high potential startups (HPSUs), established Irish companies and the presence of global companies in the sector in Ireland,” says Garrett Murray, Head of Life Sciences, Enterprise Ireland. This makes it an ideal place to develop a talent pool equipped to address evolving healthcare challenges through innovation in device development. 

Fellowship programme for medtech innovators 

Professor Martin O’Halloran is Executive Director of BioInnovate Ireland — a medtech and digital health innovation fellowship programme affiliated with Stanford Biodesign. It is situated at the University of Galway and co-funded by Enterprise Ireland. “We recruit 12 really smart, capable people from across the world and give them a year to develop a concept for a new medical device,” explains Professor O’Halloran, who leads the team that provides technical and commercial guidance to fellows.  

He also says the team’s ability to do good work requires support from the medtech ecosystem. The advisory board and mentors are leaders in the Irish medtech sector and support the programme in all activities. “Innovation programmes like BioInnovate provide an effective bridge between clinical needs and the market, which ultimately means a medical device can succeed,” he adds.  

Clinicians calling for startups  

Alongside the fellowship’s team of lecturers and mentors, he has witnessed the legacy of the fellows. “The programme has resulted in 33 startups, 22 of which are defined as HPSUs by Enterprise Ireland… That means one in eight of all Irish medtech companies have come from the programme. That is good for us as it proves that the BioInnovate programme is working. It’s also good for Ireland as we’re embedding innovation and showing why we’re the best place in the world to start a medtech company.” 

John MacNamara, Chairperson of the programme’s advisory board, adds: “There has been an evolution in the past decade — from a position where you had to encourage clinicians to get involved in innovation to an attitude of ‘Can we get your people in our room to find a solution?’” He says this shift is due to the growth of clinical trials in Ireland leading to demand for startups offering viable solutions.  

The programme has been a key driver of success
by bringing a diverse group of actors together
to commercialise research and innovation.

Garrett Murray

Connected health and instant data 

Global healthcare is moving towards connected health, remote monitoring, smart devices and the use of data to improve patient care. The fellowship programme actively supports teams to realise opportunities and address the challenges of developing connected healthcare solutions.  

“As the medical device sector becomes more digital, our programme has recruited more people with a digital health background,” explains Professor O’Halloran. MacNamara says fellows can help create the technology to meet the demand for insight-driven care. “We are looking for more candidates who can create the medtech to support clinicians with real-time decision-making,” he says. “Physicians want devices that bring back data intra and post-procedure.”

“For example, gastrointestinal surgeons use scopes to look for disease. However, using machine learning, they can make assessments based on detailed images. This adds to the efficacy of the procedure by automating it in a better way.”  

Developing solutions based on needs 

Searching globally for the next, big digital health innovator is a key part of the fellowship’s remit. Around 100–200 people apply, with 30 being assessed before a select dozen are offered a fellowship. It also runs part-time industry programmes to embed innovation in existing medtech companies in Ireland.  

“The programme has been a key driver of success by bringing a diverse group of actors together to commercialise research and innovation, underpinning startup formation and improving patient outcomes globally,” adds Murray.  

Find out more about BioInnovate Ireland and how you can get involved at bioinnovate.ie 

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