The MedTech Europe blog

At 90 billion Euros the European medical technology market and industry is far from insignificant. Its impact on the lives of patients combined with the ability of health systems to operate efficiently dwarfs the value of the market while the industry has spawned hundreds of early stage companies year on year. Despite its size the medical technology market is less than 5% of total health spend and that figure appears to be declining.

The huge innovative strength of the industry is provided by over 20,000 companies operating in Europe, feeding off the creativity of a medical and scientific community which is both large and diverse. So you’d probably assume that the prospects for the industry are great? Well perhaps they are, however, the future may look slightly bleak if we do not galvanise our efforts to explain to the world who we are. The fragmentation that makes us great may also be our Achilles heel. Somehow we struggle to convince governments, policy makers, payers and hospital managers of Europe that we are on their side. These stakeholders remain convinced that we are the primary drivers of health inflation and must be constrained. This is despite much convincing evidence to the contrary.

As an industry we must align ourselves more visibly with the needs of our customers and move away from old models of operation which focus on selling ‘better mousetraps’ to clinicians. We need to migrate to generating and communicating evidence to the increasingly influential payers, hospital managers, policy makers and governments. Generating evidence to demonstrate that our industry is sufficiently aligned and understands what needs to be done is a job for industry as a whole. We should aim to avoid situations where individual companies mix competitive marketing communications with a more generic need to explain themselves to a sceptical audience, particularly one which may have been influenced by stakeholders keen to divert the bright lights of close scrutiny away from their own performance and role in the system.

Undoubtedly, the industry needs to pool its resources to make sure that we have the materials and evidence needed to convince a much broader stakeholder community. This will prove difficult in a time when business models have to adjust to a much more organised economic buyer and a much more competitive supply side. Quite frankly, it’d be easy then to put all of this off until the sun shines again. The trouble is that the sun may not reappear or at least not with the same intensity. Failure to communicate our value proposition threatens to drive erosion in the perceived value of innovation, consequently making fund raising to fuel innovative, new and much more valuable technologies ever more difficult.

Switching this pipeline off or reducing its flow threatens not just the lives of the entrepreneurs but also the larger companies that rely on trade acquisitions to fuel growth. More importantly, the innovation that has made millions of arthritic patients mobile, reduced hospital stay times by 50% in 20 years, allowed cardiac patients to work, cataract patients to see and countless other miracles, will slowly but surely dry up and this will be to the detriment of all of us. The time for coming together is now if we are to maintain the contribution to society that we have delivered over the last 50 years.

John Wilkinson
Eucomed Chief Executive

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Comments

  1. Dear John,

    Good post – thank you. I think employees in medtech across the world, not just Europe, are feeling the pressure; so while of course you are particularly focussed on Europe as the head of Eucomed, there is a bigger issue here.

    Pooling resources, as you suggest in your post, probably is necessary to some degree but this will be much easier for larger medtech companies (Siemens, Philips, etc.) via alliances. What advice would you give start-ups and SMEs in this respect?

    I am an optimist and I think that our industry will be around for a long time. It will be up to all of us to focus on building needs-driven products and technologies, and in parallel ensure that the value added is measurable and clearly communicated.

    Best regards,

    Fabien Schmitt
    Medical Device R&D Expert, Cambridge, UK
    http://www.twitter.com/fsmedtech

    1. Dear Fabien,

      You make a very good point about the challenge for SMEs who have very limited resources. I am a champion for the role of SMEs which are the driving force of innovation in our industry and my senior corporate colleagues understand why ensuring a strong and well seeded early-stage community is a key element for delivering future growth in the industry, not to mention a strong pipeline of enabling technologies that help doctors and health systems deliver better care at lower total cost.

      The big companies have the resources and need to up their game in explaining the value proposition of the industry as a whole, SMEs included. SME’s can help by joining organisations that are able to better explain their roles in taking ideas and converting them into valuable tools which not only help clinicians to improve care, but also allow managers and clinicians to increase the efficiency of treatments for both acute and chronic conditions. In the UK, the Medilink network has done good work in supporting early stage companies. Networks exist elsewhere in Europe which help SMEs explain how the industry is structured and can add value in wide variety of ways.

      I believe that it is essential that SMEs do perform some kind of economic modelling of their technologies at an early stage which goes hand in hand with the clinical benefits work that is already being undertaken. This does not need to be super-sophisticated but it does need to be done. Helpful work was done in this area:

      Craven, M.P., Morgan, S.P., Crowe, J.A. and Lu, B. (2009). “Deploying a spreadsheet tool for early economic value assessment of medical device innovations with healthcare decision makers”. Journal of Management & Marketing in Healthcare, Vol. 2, No. 3., pp. 278-292 (July 09). Accessible through http://www.match.ac.uk.

      Eucomed is very active in developing strong positions and ideas which can help the SME community thrive in these particularly difficult times. To find out more about our stance on the role of SMEs, their importance and how we feel EU policymakers can help to remove innovation barriers for Europe’s SMEs, I recommend you have a look at our position paper.

      http://www.eucomed.org/uploads/Modules/Publications/110322_european_health_and_smes2011.pdf

      Best regards,
      John Wilkinson
      Eucomed Chief Executive

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