Developing careers in medical technology, one of Ireland’s most dynamic growth sectorsPosted: January 15, 2013
The medical technology sector in Ireland is already of great strategic and economic importance – 11 of the world’s top 13 med tech companies are located in Ireland and over 250 companies offer a growing range of careers in this sector, which already employs over 25,000 people.
Industry, academia, clinical and government agencies are increasingly working together to ensure the sector continues to grow – it is seen as one of the core drivers of the Irish economy in the 21st century, supported by the HEA’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 and backed up by research that shows Ireland to have the third highest proportion of maths, science and computer graduates per capita in the world.
When considering your career it makes sense to link it to sectors of the economy that are thriving, are future-proof (as much as any sector can be) and which are likely to receive both national and inward investment. The med tech sector ticks all those boxes, so what are the career opportunities in this sector?
In this sector, companies mainly operate in three areas:
1. Medical devices
Careers in this sector can be broadly divided into production processes or engineering. There is considerable diversity among medical devices production processes, leading to a wide range in the mix of skills required between different production operations. Key roles include manual assembly operatives, machine operators, technicians, quality control and quality assurance staff, operations managers and operations supervisors.
Key specific engineering disciplines that are predominant in the sector include biomedical; production; industrial; manufacturing; validation; automation; process design; product design; polymer; research & development; quality engineering.
Where devices include significant biologically active components (these are components which cause biological change within the human body), companies employ scientists, science technicians and processing operatives with skills similar to those of the pharmaceutical or bio-pharmaceutical industries. They undertake roles parallel to those of engineers, technicians and machine operators in manufacturing biomechanical and bioelectronic devices. With the increased use of biologically active substances in the medical device sector’s products, the needs for professionals with skills in biotechnology are in high demand. This trend is making skills in biological sciences, chemistry and pharmacology all the more important to innovation in medical devices, alongside the clinical and engineering skills that have traditionally dominated innovation.
3. Service/associated career options
Given that it is a highly regulated industry, other roles that are prominent in the industry and provide good careers prospects include the following:
Regulatory affairs professionals track compliance of operations with regulatory requirements, advise other staff on regulatory matters, report on compliance and manage relationships with regulatory authorities.
Healthcare economists have a leading role in establishing the benefits of a device quantitatively, and communicate these benefits to healthcare providers, health insurers and other organisations.
Future careers in the industry
As well as providing current career opportunities as outlined above, future developments in this sector are likely to lead to an even wider range of career prospects. Medical technologies are becoming increasingly more complex, and many companies are now engaged in research and development. Sectors such as medical devices, biotechnology, diagnostics, ICT, software and the pharmaceutical industry are recognising the opportunity to combine traditionally separate scientific disciplines to form new, more innovative ‘smart combination technologies’. Advances have resulted in new services, therapies or products such as drug-device combination products, ICT-device combination products and personalised medicine.
This blog post is an edited version of a longer article published by Smart Futures on the medical technology sector. Thanks to Discover Science & Engineering for permission to use this material.