Turning innovation into value that stays in Europe

  • Posted on 24.06.2015

Turning innovation into value that stays in Europe


Serge Bernasconi

Chief Executive Officer, MedTech Europe


The medtech industry in Europe is made up almost uniquely of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). These have brought incredible innovations to patients, healthcare systems, the economy and society, and will continue to do so in the future. But if we put ever more data demands on these companies, in return, they need to be able to operate in a clear, efficient and predictable funding environment.

Pop-quiz: What is the most innovative industry in Europe, measured by patents filed? It’s not the ICT industry. No, it’s not the pharma industry neither… It’s the medical technology industry, a sector that in general files over 10,000 patents per year. And it’s the SMEs that make up 95% of this sector in Europe that are the drivers of innovation.

These deliver value at every level:

  • Patients live longer, healthier lives
  • Healthcare systems can use products that make more efficient use of limited resources
  • European economies benefit from a brake on rising healthcare expenditure, while
  • The medtech industry creates jobs (over 575,000 of them!) and growth (a positive trade balance of €15 billion).

The medtech SMEs in Europe form a rich ecosystem that we cannot simply equate to the pharmaceutical sector, which in Europe is predominantly made up of multinationals and has product lifecycles of 10-15 years.

At the same time, healthcare systems want more data and evidence of the value of innovations. The medtech industry, including SMEs, are committed to providing this data. However, while large multinational companies can easily move around (human) resources to cope with the additional work, this is much more difficult to do for companies that work with staff of between 1 and 250 people.

Moreover, new legislation set to be introduced in a number of member states will considerably impact how innovations get reimbursed. Germany for instance has an NUB system which gives high-end innovations provisional approval so that real-world patient data can be generated. It is a system widely used today by many medtech companies. The planned new legislation, however, is set to impact it considerably.

How can we ensure our innovation ecosystem does not get jeopardised?

We could use the successful Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) model which Europe pioneered to solve large structural problems. Mimicking the way the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) helps support early-stage drug development in the pharma sector, JTI could support MedTech SMEs in making their market-approved technologies accessible to patients throughout Europe.

If we stand by idly, our SMEs will take their lifesaving innovations to other markets, such as the US and Canada, or sell to larger companies who can meet the market access challenges in Europe.

And when I see what a success an initiative such as the MedTech Week has been, where 18 medtech companies, many of which SMEs, 10 associations all came together. From scientific conferences to press interviews, radio programmes, Parliament exhibitions, cocktail receptions to politicians visiting manufacturing sites or donating events of historic medical equipment, MedTech companies and national associations told stories about medtech and their impact on the lives of patients and demonstrated thevalue of medtech in addressing today’s health challenges.

This also reinforces my belief that a JTI for MedTech SMEs would be a sound investment that supports turning innovation into value that stays in Europe.

And with that positive message we can go into the summer holidays before embarking on the 2nd half of the year. My blogs will also take a summer break but we will continue to provide you with great content throughout the summer. 

See you all in September for what promises to be an exciting autumn season!


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