News and Insights

Exploring Ireland’s life sciences innovation

May 14, 2024

FINN Partners’ EMEA health team recently worked with its client IDA Ireland on a press trip to see firsthand the country’s thriving life sciences sector – during an unfeasibly sunny week for late April. Five journalists from a variety of publications in the UK and Germany were flown in to experience the unique ecosystem making Ireland a world leader in life sciences, and in particular, medical technology and the pharmaceutical industry.

Ireland – a MedTech hub

Ireland has solidified its position as the world’s third-largest pharmaceuticals exporter, boasting annual exports surpassing €80 billion. The country hosts nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies globally, with the sector employing 40,000 individuals nationwide, with 10,000 of these positions created in the past decade alone. Ireland is also home to 13 of the world’s 15 largest medical technology (MedTech) companies. Over 300 MedTech companies operate in Ireland, employing some 40,000 people, while exports from Ireland are worth more than €13 billion a year – 8% of the country’s total exports.

While the small-molecule sector has traditionally formed the cornerstone of Ireland’s life sciences industry, there is a noticeable recent shift towards growth and development in advanced therapeutics. The most robust growth is now observed in advanced therapeutic areas such as mRNA, cell, and gene technologies, which journalists got to see up close, while wearing several layers of protective covering.

IDA Ireland

The journey began with a warm welcome from John Nugent, Head of Medical Technologies at IDA Ireland, setting the stage for what would be an enlightening exploration of Ireland’s life sciences landscape. The first stop was MeiraGTx in Shannon, Ireland’s first site capable of commercial-stage gene therapy manufacturing. Positioned on the western periphery of Europe, the facility marks a significant milestone in the company’s mission to develop and administer treatments for various disorders, ranging from inherited vision impairment to neurological conditions like Parkinson’s – and potentially extending to diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. Amazingly, the average age of the workforce on the site is just 27 years old.


We continued to Limerick, where journalists had the opportunity to visit Regeneron, the largest biotech facility in Ireland. Regeneron produces medicines for high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, eye diseases, and rare inflammatory conditions, and has products in development in other areas of high unmet medical need. This includes oncology, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, pain, and infectious diseases. The scale and sophistication of Regeneron’s operations are hugely impressive, showing the company’s commitment to producing life-saving medicines. 

Becton Dickinson (BD) and Digital Manufacturing Ireland

The subsequent visit to BD RCI highlighted Ireland’s prowess in medical technology research and development. BD RCI’s state-of-the-art facility, coupled with its collaborative approach to innovation, showcased Ireland’s capacity to drive transformative change in the healthcare industry. This was followed by a tour of Digital Manufacturing Ireland, which provided valuable insights into the intersection of technology and manufacturing, further solidifying Ireland’s reputation as a leader in Industry 4.0.

The facility is a 30,000 sq ft national centre of excellence that supports Irish-based manufacturers of all sizes to innovate and accelerate their adoption of digital technologies to give them a competitive edge on the global stage. It also includes an end-to-end physical and digital production line to support the testing and deployment of new technologies in the manufacturing space. The aim is to advance the future competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, which employs more than 270,000 people and contributes 37% of Ireland’s GDP.

Alcon and Boston Scientific

The journey finished in Cork, where journalists were treated to visits to Alcon and Boston Scientific. Alcon focuses on manufacturing intraocular lenses for cataracts at its Cork plant, and journalists saw the entire production process from patient consultation to lenses being packaged. The highlight of the tour was a virtual reality section showing before and after views of cataract patients who had had Alcon’s lenses implanted.

Similarly, Boston Scientific’s commitment to invention and patient care was evident throughout the tour of its Cork site. The inspirational Joe Devli, Senior Director of Process Development, showed us just a few of the company’s cutting-edge medical devices. This included a device that uses compressed air in a hospital setting to perform atherectomy surgery – the removal of plaque and calcium in the artery. It moves at an incredible 180,000 revolutions per minute to remove excess build-up.

Key takeaways

Throughout, journalists were not only exposed to the latest advancements in life sciences technology but also had the opportunity to interact with industry experts and key stakeholders, including seeing how universities such as the University of Limerick are vital in ensuring the industry is supplied with the best talent. Ireland has the youngest population across the EU, with a vibrant and dynamic demographic.

This youthfulness contributes to a rich pool of talent with novel ideas, further enhanced by Ireland’s status as the EU leader for the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates per capita. Such a wealth of expertise positions Ireland at the forefront of scientific and technological advancements, driving progress across many sectors.

Read about FINN Partners’ health practice here.

TAGS: Health

POSTED BY: Jim Smith

Jim Smith