Ireland’s life sciences industry has embraced disruptive technologies
by Rachel Shirley
Disruptive technologies are driving the life sciences industry through a period of rapid and dramatic change. It is transforming product innovation and manufacturing. It makes care more personal, digital and data-driven. And help companies understand and reduce their environmental impact.
Navigating all these changes and figuring out how to best leverage disruptive technologies to stay competitive can be challenging.
Many companies are still trying to determine what digital transformation in their operations should look like. Given the shortage of skilled labor, organizations are facing pressing questions about how to undertake digital transformation efforts and how to streamline the transformation process, such as by leveraging other work already underway to research and develop disruptive technologies.
There’s no better place to see how the life sciences industry is embracing disruptive technologies than Ireland. Companies here are using new disruptive technologies to transform product innovation, manufacturing operations and sustainability efforts in the life sciences. They are using the collective strength and support of industry, government and academia to do so.
The world’s biggest names in life sciences are showcasing the possibilities of digital transformation in their Irish business.
For example, Janssen Sciences Ireland’s Cork site was recently designated a “Beacon of Sustainability” by the World Economic Forum. Janssen is part of Johnson & Johnson, which aims to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2030. Its Irish operations demonstrate how disruptive technologies can help achieve this.
Like all J&J operations in Ireland, Janssen’s Cork facility is powered entirely by renewable energy. The site uses adaptive process control and digital twin technology to optimize manufacturing operations and other key energy-consuming functions. This enables Janssen to optimize its on-site processes and reduce its carbon footprint per kilogram of product by 56 percent.
Elsewhere in Ireland, Novartis is using digital technology to explore the art of possibilities for delivering drug solutions to patients. At Novartis Global Services in Dublin, the company uses not only clinical science, but also data science and artificial intelligence to drive innovation in service delivery.
In connected care, companies are using their Irish presence to reimagine what care can be.
Boston Scientific, for example, manufactures digital and connected medical devices, such as its implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, at its Clonmel production site. The device can detect a high heart rate and send a shock to the patient’s heart to stop the arrhythmia. The device’s remote monitoring gives care providers access to important patient data and notifications of patient issues — it can reassure patients that they are still being cared for, even outside the doctor’s office.
What drives so many disruptive technology adoption in Ireland? It is the result of multiple factors working together to create a unique innovation ecosystem.
Talent availability is key. As the world’s third largest exporter of pharmaceuticals and Europe’s second largest exporter of medical technology products, the Irish life sciences sector has a sizeable workforce. In fact, it is the largest employer of medical technology in Europe per capita.
The country has been working to maintain the talent pipeline. The education system is ranked among the top 10 in the world, and industry-university-research collaborations ensure that courses and degrees keep pace with the technological needs of the life sciences industry. In addition, companies operating in Ireland have access to a larger EU talent pool.
Ireland supports innovation through government-funded projects. For example, the Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC), a new world-class industry-led national centre enabling businesses in Ireland to access, adopt and accelerate digital technologies, will open later this year. It focuses on technology deployment across the Irish enterprise base by connecting technology, operations, sustainability and skills. This world-class purpose-built facility means Ireland is open and ready for the next generation of manufacturing investment.
The government is further developing the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) to support emerging opportunities in the life sciences.
The Irish government provides extensive support to support and drive innovation in the industry.
Companies conducting research and development in Ireland can receive a 25% tax credit through the government. IDA Ireland also provides separate grants for R&D projects. In addition, the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund (DTIF) is a €500 million fund that supports collaboration between multinational companies and academia, especially around disruptive technologies. Many of DTIF’s investments to date have been in the life sciences industry, with this round focused on collaborations in advanced and smart manufacturing.
Ireland has become central to the innovation agenda of life sciences companies. Today, three-quarters of medtech companies operating in Ireland carry out R&D activities in the country. And because these events are backed by a rich talent pool and an ecosystem that supports innovation, there are few limits to where they might take the industry next.
|Rachel Shelly is Head of Medical Technology at IDA Ireland, the agency responsible for supporting foreign direct investment in Ireland. She leads the development and implementation of Ireland’s inward investment strategy across medtech and healthcare services.|