International mission : MEDICA
MEDICA is Europe’s leading show and without doubt one of the foremost international shows dedicated to medical technologies. It is a place for discovery and for exchanges between health professionals and industry in this sector where the former can find out about new product offerings and the latter anticipate the future needs of hospitals and patients.
The I-Care Cluster thus offers to support its members at this important event which will stimulate their future growth. However, this action is but the final phase in the approach adopted by industry to access international markets. Well in advance, the latter have mobilised considerable financial and human resources to reach this stage and one of the missions of the I-Care Cluster is to support them in such measures.
A product is developed in order to meet a need expressed by health professionals, who are usually relaying their patients’ expectations. Other than in very particular cases, these needs have no borders and the product designed locally may be rolled out internationally subject to a few key stages:
- CE marking. Europe, often criticised in other contexts, plays an essential role here by offering a unique certification covering a total of 27 countries and a population of close to 350 million people. This is a lot when considered individually for each of our countries; it is equivalent to the whole of North America, but still low compared to China and India which would be able to meet the demand of their own internal markets. CE marking is also associated with regulations often judged restrictive but which, in return, set the quality standard expected by health professionals and patients for domestic and imported products. The support for innovation and the regulatory monitoring offered by the I-Care Cluster are helpful in this certification phase.
- The distribution network: Subsidiaries, Agencies, Distributors ... the options are numerous, complex and risky, and necessitate heavy investment. The MEDICA show is one of the places in which these strategies can be established or fine-tuned, and here too the I-Care Cluster plays a supporting role.
- Reimbursement for medical care is the final element which allows the economic model and then the commercial roll-out of products to be defined. In this phase, Europe does not have a role. Individual national arrangements are the rule and they are often cumbersome and difficult to understand. Industry is alone and finds individual commercial successes, often outside its own country. Clearly, as each nation in Europe is responsible for its own financial equilibrium, it is difficult to imagine the introduction of common rules.
With regard to this final point, the I-Care Cluster cannot act alone. But, supported by regional health agencies and regional and national policies, there are avenues waiting to be explored with a view to providing medico-economic information so that the economic pertinence of products developed can be assessed. They include offering a certain number of local players access to a technology in order to assess it exhaustively at local level, and then, if it proves successful, supporting its national and international roll-out, like here at MEDICA.