It has long been recognized that the medical device industry can and does have a significant impact on a region’s economy. In Ireland, particularly in the western corridor of Galway, the medical technology sector employs over 25,000 people in 250 companies, whose exports are worth more than $8 billion per annum, and growing year-on-year. Most of the large American medical device companies – such as Boston Scientific, Medtronic and Stryker – have manufacturing plants located in Ireland, although half the companies are indigenous. A major export target is the USA where the medical device market currently stands at $150 billion per annum.
As we pointed out in one of our earliest blogs almost four years ago, the Western Cape region of South Africa is considered a hotbed of medical device development. The majority (43%) of the country’s medical device manufacturers are based in this province and the industry exports around $100 million worth of equipment each year. However, South Africa imports $1 billion worth of medical equipment, highlighting a glaring trade deficit.
Alan Winde, whom we featured in a story on tweeting two years ago, is the Minister for Economic Development in the Western Cape and he made an important announcement yesterday. The government will invest $50 million in the development of the Cape Health Technology Park (CHTP). The CHTP will be located in the suburb of Pinelands, next door to Vincent Pallotti Hospital, with a magnificent view of Devil’s Peak, part of the iconic Table Mountain range (see photo above).
Windie believes the CHTP presents a significant opportunity to support health innovation: “This health technology hub will bring together research and development firms, universities, academic hospitals, venture capitalists, government and the private sector to drive innovation.” He went on to predict, “We are confident this collaboration will lead to the development of new firms and intellectual properties, which will establish our region as a globally competitive centre of health innovation.”
It is hoped the facility will generate 5,000 new jobs and contribute up to $400 million to the local economy. While these numbers are modest by comparison with regions such as Galway, or even the Boston area, they have significant implications for the Cape. We have an opportunity to find novel solutions to some of the country’s, and by extension the world’s, most challenging healthcare problems. There is no lack of talent and creativity – either medical or engineering – so we must now go ahead and deliver!