Medical technology sector beating the recession with £16billion turnover

Record takings and increased employment makes MedTech sector among UK's most successful, government figures show

Despite ongoing economic pressure, the medical technology sector is experiencing continued growth, with a turnover of £16billion in 2011 - an increase of £1billion on the previous year.

Newly-released government data from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) shows the MedTech industry is defying the recession to post record sales and has increased employment significantly over the past two years.

British medical technology is first and foremost a human industry, one where world-class scientists have ideas to solve medical needs, engineers make these concepts a reality, and people create the final products which we take to the world

The statistics show the sector is now the biggest employer in the life science industry, directly supporting 71,000 people in the UK alone and with employers situated as far afield as the Highlands of Scotland and Plymouth. Major employers are also found in traditional areas of heavy industry including Hull and north Wales.

Commenting on the increasing opportunities, Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of the industry body, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), said: “British medical technology is first and foremost a human industry, one where world-class scientists have ideas to solve medical needs, engineers make these concepts a reality, and people create the final products which we take to the world.

“This creates opportunities for fresh think and constant innovation from the drawing board to the factory floor, ensuring what the industry produces continues to be valued by customers.”

The BIS figures show the total number of UK-based medical technology companies has increased to 3,129.

We are an example of how innovative, private companies can bring significant benefits to NHS partner organisations

One of these is LifeScan Scotland, a member of the Johnson & Johnson company that aims to ‘create a world without limits for people with diabetes’. It is one of the largest private employers in the Highlands and Islands, with more than 1,000 people on its payroll. BD, based in Plymouth, manufactures a range of blood collection products and systems and supplies much of the NHS in the UK, as well as health organisations in Europe and around the world. It currently employs 720 people.

Companies that have been particularly successful in moving into the market over the last 12 months include The Binding Site and Physiological Measurements. In 2012, The Binding Site Group increased growth and sales overseas, particularly in the Middle East and Japan. Its chief executive, Charles de Rohan, said: “2012 was a year of continued investment for future growth and expansion. We made a significant investment in new staff, both in the UK and in our overseas offices in the areas of research, new product development and clinical education. We also purchased new equipment to facilitate faster product development as well as initiating a manufacturing process review that is already yielding improved efficiencies in production.”

Based in Shropshire, Physiological Measurements is an award-winning MedTech company that has doubled the number of people it employs year on year since the company was founded in 2006, with all profits re-invested to continue growth. Jon Pither, company director, said: "We are an example of how innovative, private companies can bring significant benefits to NHS partner organisations. We deliver a vertically integrated model of care and our community diagnostics services offer patients hospital quality care close to home, now extending into their home with telehealth. Our innovative software also and enables all their results and images to be accessed by community clinicians and those in secondary care quickly when required."

The UK life sciences industry is vibrant and dynamic and a key contributor to sustained economic growth. It continues to be one of the world largest and most-productive life science sectors, renowned for its creativity, exceptional research base and outstanding talent

The BIS report shows that, based on a sample of 1,762 companies for which financial data was available for 2009-2012, firms, on average, saw a 1% increase in turnover and 4% increase in employment between 2011-2012.

It states: “The overwhelming majority of medical technology companies are small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), with 99% of the companies in the sector employing fewer than 250 people. The age profile shows a high percentage of companies over 10 years old (65%) and only 1% younger than two years old. The overall picture is that of a sector made up by small, but well established, companies.”

Companies producing single-use technologies form the largest segment within the medical technology sector by turnover (£1.786m), followed by companies providing professional services, woundcare and management and in-vitro diagnostic technology. These four areas have a combined sales turnover of nearly £5billion – around a third of the total MedTech industry takings.

The segment showing the highest levels of employment is professional services and consultancy, with 7,900 employees. This is followed by single-use technologies, in-vitro diagnostic technologies and orthopaedic devices. Each of these segments employs more tha 5,000 people.

A further measure of the health of the UK MedTech industry is the number of devices from UK headquartered companies that have been approved for marketing in the world’s largest medical technology market, the USA. Between January and August 2012, 37 new medical devices developed by UK companies received approval.

An ongoing understanding of the size and shape of the industry is crucial to foster an environment in the UK where life sciences companies can continue to flourish

The report goes on to predict that over the coming year, top growth markets are forecast to be neurology, plastic surgery and ophthalmic technologies, as well as endoscopy and in-vitro diagnostics.

Commenting on the research, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “The UK life sciences industry is vibrant and dynamic and a key contributor to sustained economic growth. It continues to be one of the world largest and most-productive life science sectors, renowned for its creativity, exceptional research base and outstanding talent.”

But he added: “We know that we must adapt to ensure that the UK remains a leading player in the global market. An ongoing understanding of the size and shape of the industry is crucial to foster an environment in the UK where life sciences companies can continue to flourish. My Department, UK Trade and Investment, the Medical Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council are working together to achieve this.”

For full details of the report, click here.

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