While the South African medical device industry has enormous potential and capacity, it is fragmented and not functioning optimally.

Constraints to growth of the sector, industry representatives were told during last week’s virtual SAMED Conference, included insufficient efforts and interventions aimed at stimulating local innovation, technology development and manufacturing – as well as a lack of strategic integrated infrastructure.

Explaining that these were some of the constraints identified by industry stakeholders themselves, Dr Michelle Mulder (pictured), IP and Business Development Manager at the SA Medical Research Council (MRC), assured delegates that many of these would now be addressed specifically on behalf of the industry by the recently formed Medical Device and Diagnostic innovation Cluster (MeDDIC) – a national initiative by the MRC aimed at exploiting the high concentration of skills, expertise, infrastructure and companies within the South African medtech sector

“MeDDIC is not intended to replace the role of any National System of Innovation (NSI) players,” Mulder assured, “but to bring together players along the value chain from research, academia and industry to drive and support innovation.

“Importantly, all the programmes and activities will be driven by the needs of the medical device stakeholders themselves,” Mulder added, having noted that the country’s medical diagnostic and device industry imports 90% of the market value: “And COVID-19 has highlighted the risks of reliance on imports..!”

Other areas to be addressed will be regulatory and quality management challenges, the lack of policies supporting local industry competitiveness and interventions aimed at maintaining and building a skilled labour force.

In addition to leveraging critical mass to influence policy changes, MeDDIC, said Mulder, will be delivering direct interventions to address issues such as regulatory barrier and skills development, “focussing on those with the broadest possible impact”.

Key objective in this regard, she indicated, would be to increase the overall cohesion and cooperation between sector players.