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AdvaMed Conference Focused on Globalization

Talk about apropos.

After years of touting the international flavor of its annual conference, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) finally turned globalization into a central theme at its latest event, held Sept. 23-25 in downtown Washington, D.C. The topic permeated almost all aspects of AdvaMed 2013: The Medtech Conference, from programming and exhibitions to networking breaks and the customary welcome soirée.

North America’s largest medtech conference hosted nearly 2,100 guests from more than 1,000 industry organizations and other entities in 30 countries, 38 states and the District of Columbia.

Attendees who mingled at a Sept. 23 cocktail reception dined on an intercontinental smor-gasbord of treats on tables adorned with miniature flags from various countries. Menu items ranged from Asian fare (chicken teriyaki, stir fry and fortune cookies) to Mediterranean delights (olives, cheese and meat) and American classics like sliders and creamy macaroni and cheese.

The evening reception capped a comprehensive opening day of plenary sessions and panel discussions, many of which addressed global issues. Brazilian health executives, for instance, headlined an early afternoon conversation on expanding their country’s role in the worldwide medtech market, while American, Japanese and Middle Eastern bureaucrats examined the impact of changing regulatory requirements and harmonization efforts in Asia. Bigwigs from Covidien plc, 3M, Medtronic Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp., meanwhile, reviewed the expanded transparency and compliance requirements of various physician payment sunshine acts worldwide; and the top-level managers of CVRx Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Sorin Group opined on global supply chain strategies and the implications for marketing devices in the European Union.

“OEMs are looking for companies that are globally aware, have grown beyond the traditional markets and have more of a global reach,” one industry observer noted. “Supplier sophistication is more important today than it ever was. Contract manufacturers that have a presence in foreign countries will have a leg up and grow with the OEMs.”

To foster such sophistication, AdvaMed held panel sessions on leveraging companion di-agnostic submissions both domestically and overseas; gaining access to developing markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China (the renowned BRIC brethren); and accessing private sources of international capital. The association added some global seasoning to its budding Medical Technology Veterans Program as well, teaching Entrepreneurship Boot Camp recruits the essentials of successful U.S. market entry.

Augmenting the event’s internationally-focused sessions were exhibitions from various economic development agencies worldwide, including Great Britian, Scotland, Thailand, El Salvador, Belgium, Australia and Puerto Rico. One corridor of the conference exhibit hall, in fact, resembled a travel agency as foreign trade/investment executives adorned their limited display spaces with savvy advertisements, signs and eye-catching swag (Melbourne, Australia, had the most original placard with its oversized kangaroo crossing road sign while Scotland bested its competitors with a miniature stuffed dragon giveaway). Ireland’s envoys had no such handouts or interesting road signs, but the country’s business marketing arguably was second to none—economic development officials hosted a “Guinness Pub Night” networking reception for conference attendees on Sept. 24. British and Scottish emissaries did their best to trump the festivities with get-togethers of their own, with Scottish Development International representatives borrowing a page from Ireland's book and hosting a whiskey-tasting event that featured Glenkinchie, Highland Park, Macallan, Laphroaig and Talisker brands of the liquor.

Ireland's delegation members, naturally, used the reception to promote their country’s life sciences investment potential. The contingent came well-prepared for the event, having stocked its booth with literature touting Ireland’s track record (15 of the top 20 medical technology companies have set up shop there), talent (50.4 percent of the population is under the age of 35), taxes (its 12.5 percent corporate tax rate is half of China’s 25 percent rate and nearly one-third of America’s 35 percent rate), and technology (8 billion euros invested in science, technology and innovation).

“Ireland has an excellent regulatory track record, which makes it a popular location for medical device companies,” Declan McAree, business development manager at IDA Ireland, the country’s largest investment promotions agency, told Medical Product Outsourcing. “Our government is pro-business. The medical device industry has been in Ireland since the 1960s and it’s evolved quite a bit over the years. A lot of [medtech] companies are acquiring smaller firms, moving the technology to Ireland and re-engineering products. It’s become a real sweet spot for us.”

And for companies as well. During the meeting’s final CEOs Unplugged event on Sept. 25, the chief executives of B. Braun, Cardinal Health and Abbott Laboratories espoused the concept of globalization, telling their fellow attendees that international sourcing/manufacturing is essential to long-term growth. “If you don’t internationalize, you lose,” B. Braun Chairman/CEO Caroll H. Neubauer stated bluntly. “Everyone automatically thinks about the BRIC countries, but in some cases, they’re making it more difficult to get products approved. Let’s not forget there is a continent that is not yet being served by most of our companies, and that’s Africa. There are healthcare needs in every single country on that continent that are going to become much more important in the future.”

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