Medtech: Covering an Exploding Market
Germany’s market for medical technology – worth EUR 38 billion in 2019 – was already one of the largest in the world before the coronavirus. But the arrival of Covid-19 brought exponential growth in demand for German medical solutions.
In the words of the German government on April 9, one of the “central concerns” for Germany during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic was whether the country would have sufficient diagnostic equipment, intensive care units and personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves and disinfectant. But nothing came to embody the new emphasis on reliable supplies of medical necessities like the exploding demand for surgical masks.
Germany was already a world leader in medical hardware like ventilators, but as the case of masks shows, the new reality of corona has created major new needs and opportunities. GTAI medtech expert Gabriel Flemming estimates that Germany is likely to require between 8 and 20 billion masks every year.
With a portfolio of over 55,000 products, the U.S. medical technology company 3M brings around 1,000 new products to market every year worldwide.
© Danny Gys/Reporters/laif
“Anyone who can improve on existing standards in masks – by making them more recyclable, reusable and easier to wear or by using biological rather than petroleum-based raw materials – will have up to half of their investment costs refunded by the German government,” Flemming points out.
A collaborative project between the Free University of Berlin, Aachen’s Institute of Textile Technology and Swiss company Livinguard Technologies provides one case in point. It claims to have produced masks that can destroy up to 99.9 percent of Covid-19 viruses when correctly used, thanks to a special fabric. The masks can also be reused up to 200 times.
The subsidiary of American giant 3M in Germany is another company planning new facilities devoted to making PPE and masks. 3M’s managing director for central Europe, Dirk Lange, thinks his company’s expertise in materials may give it a distinct advantage. “Our goal is to add market share,” Lange told local media. “You can do that in a crisis, too. We need to see how we can become more competitive.”
Investors who come to Germany benefit from being able to partner with experts and link up with world-class academic and research institutions organized into national clusters. The German government has offered ample financial support, while various umbrella organizations have been set up to promote research. There are also direct grants, repayable advances and tax advantages for those engaged in medical research and production.
And while masks and the virus itself have dominated public attention, opportunities abound throughout the medtech sector in Germany. Flemming mentions artificial intelligence and digitalization in dentistry as just one area in which foreign investors and companies are profiting from the new needs and practices created by the pandemic.