Presidential Address by Dr. John O'Dea ... - Engineers Ireland

Sep 25, 2013 - With over 15 of the top 25 medical devices companies in the world having their European facilities in Ireland, we need to look to the ... computer scientists and software developers, the agenda will broaden to hose in the.
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Presidential Address by Dr. John O’Dea, Chartered Engineer, President of Engineers Ireland, BE MED MSc PhD Wednesday, 25th September 2013 Past-Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Director General, Guests, family members and fellow Engineers, it is a great honour to be here this evening to present my Presidential address. As I described on the evening of my appointment, a key focus of my year in office will be to give a greater degree of visibility to the issues facing the medical device industry both in Ireland and across the world, the role that engineers play each day in this industry, and to highlight how newly engineered technologies are changing the way medicine will be practiced. I have spent the past 23 years of my engineering career in the medical device industry, having originally commenced my career in the electronics industry. The medical device industry in Ireland is in strong health. This heavily manufacturingfocused industry employs close on 26,000 people and is close to reaching export levels of €7 billion. The industry employs a wide range of technicians and engineers working in a variety of manufacturing and design disciplines. Recognising the growth of the industry, the third level institutions have over the past number years developed specialist engineering degree, masters and PhD courses, targeted at supplying appropriate skills to the industry. However it should be emphasised that the majority of engineers working in this industry have graduated with degrees from traditional

engineering disciplines. There has been perhaps sometimes a misconception that a specialist bioengineering degree is a pre-requisite to work in this industry. This is far from the case. The diversity of the industry sees physicists, scientists, computer scientists and electronic engineers adding to the cadre of mechanical and biomedical engineers that populate the engineering ranks in medical device design and manufacturing. Not only do these work in the industry side, but also in supporting the significant technical infrastructure that sits within the hospital system. Indeed, we have recently seen a number of Civil Engineers successfully complete conversion courses, run through Engineers Ireland, resulting in a high percentage take up of jobs as Quality Engineers within the medical device industry. In summary, the industry is an open club for all engineering disciplines, not just those of a bio-origin. As we look forward it is clear that the number in the industry has remained stable over the past few years. Manufacturing jobs related to the introduction of new high technology devices are counterbalanced by off shoring of lower margin products. As we look to the future, one must look at where medical device technology is evolving to in order to ascertain where the jobs growth will come from. It is my fervent belief that in the coming decade we are going to transition from putting bits of metal and plastic in people to an era of regenerative medicine, where we help the body to regrow damaged tissues and organs. A recent presentation by Johnson and Johnson suggests that the regenerative medicine market will exceed $10bn by 2020. Underpinning this will be a range of new manufacturing technologies for genetically modifying and growing stem

cells, as well as the structures or scaffolds (yes scaffolds!) upon which those cells will be grown. These manufacturing technologies will be essential elements of the regenerative medicine toolkit. I would call on SFI, IDA and Enterprise Ireland to give focus to these areas of competence, in a manner similar to current nanotechnology manufacturing initiatives, which I believe will be of national import as we look to the next generation of job growth in this sector. With over 15 of the top 25 medical devices companies in the world having their European facilities in Ireland, we need to look to the segments of the future and the companies of the future that will represent these exciting new developments, to drive future employment growth. This will only be achieved through