If all business comes from relationships, then relationships should be your business – and in a country as small as Ireland, this old adage is even more important. This is why the Engineers Ireland Biomedical Engineering Division (BED) is relaunching its lecture series for the 2016-17 academic year. This year’s lectures are designed to maximise the opportunities for networking while also acknowledging the work that is being done in this field, all around the country. Dr Deasún Ó Conchúir CEng FIEI is the BED committee’s third-level education liaison. Although this is his first year on the committee, he has undertaken an ambitious overhaul of the Division’s Higher Education Promotion. “The purpose of the new programme is to promote biomedical engineering, making students aware of the opportunities in the industry,” Ó Conchúir explained. “We also hope to provide an additional environment for contacts between industrialists, students and faculty. The biomedical industry in Ireland is very diverse and it’s relationship oriented. It pays to be connected.” A member of Engineers Ireland for over forty years, Ó Conchúir holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Strathclyde and spent nearly a decade in Waterford Institute of Technology, starting the first two engineering degrees in the southeast before leaving in 1983. He is now the collaboration consultant for Scatterwork GmbH, which specialises in online training for project management and team building.

Generating networking opportunities

[caption id="attachment_34096" align="alignright" width="233"]deasun01 Dr Deasún Ó Conchúir CEng FIEI[/caption] “With the new lecture series, we’re trying to generate visibility for the biomedical sector and facilitate the chance for young people to talk to the presenter afterwards,” he continued. “If the students play their cards right, it can be the first step to a job interview. By making contacts within the industry, you’ve got yourself a lead – an ‘in’.” All of the events are being organised locally by third-level institutions and supported by the Biomedical Engineering Division and Engineers Ireland. “We’re using as many opportunities as we can to promote the programme, such as involving regional chairpersons, active involvement of BED committee members, industry-specific networks, Engineers Ireland events calendar and promotion by social media. After the programme concludes, we also hope to publish the presentations in article format in the Engineers Journal,” said Ó Conchúir. A BED committee member will be present at every event and it is hoped that a representative from the relevant Engineers Ireland region will also attend whenever possible. However, an academic from the local college or university will chair each event. Ensuring this regional spread of events was particularly important to the BED committee. “We decided that the events should be held in different locations around the country, reflecting the biomedical engineering industry itself, which doesn’t specifically focus on the capital. In previous years, our event calendar was perhaps a bit too Dublin-centric when, in fact, the biomedical industry is strong in places like Sligo, Cork and Galway. The events, with their excellent topics and speakers, just weren’t happening in the right places.” This year, the lecture topics are chosen locally, according to local industry or the strengths of the third-level academics in the area. “If someone’s research speciality, or ‘hobbyhorse’, is a certain topic, then the chances are that they’ll give an excellent presentation because they care about the subject. The local organisers know their own turf better than we do – they have contacts within engineering employers in the region as well as their own college.” An important secondary effect is to develop a model for future programmes, according to Ó Conchúir. “In future, it should be easier to get involvement by referring potential speakers/organisers to what we’ve done this year. The intention is to expand our offering in subsequent years and, indeed, the opportunity is still open for more events during this academic year.”

Lecture series details

The first lecture in the programme took place on 20 October last in Galway, when Prof Laoise McNamara presented on the topic, ‘Networking within the Biomedical Industry’. In addition, a member of the management team from Merit Medical, which is located in Galway’s Parkmore Business Park East, gave an overview of the company. The rest of the events will run regularly until the end of March:
  • 24 January – John Butler, tPOT Research Group in the Dublin Institute of Technology (Kevin Street) School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, will give a talk entitled, ‘Sensory Motor and Decision Making in People with Parkinson’s Disease’ in Dublin’s DIT Kevin St.
  • 26 January – Seán Lyons, centre manager with Athlone’s APT Ireland, will speak on ‘The Changing Face of the Biomedical Plastics Industry: New Challenges and New Solutions’ in Waterford IT.
  • 8 February – Prof Chris Nugent of Ulster University (Jordanstown) will give a presentation entitled ‘Monitoring and Making Sense – Technology to Support Wellbeing’ on the Jordanstown campus.
  • 22 February – Niamh Hynes, clinical lecturer In vascular & endovascular surgery at Galway's Western Vascular Institute, will offer ‘A Clinical and Surgical Perspective to Medical Device Design’ in NUI Galway.
  • 23 March – James Fuohy of Boston Scientific and Mark Kelleher of Mainstay Medical will present a ‘Focus on Active Implantable Devices – Neuromodulation/Neurostimulation’ at the Limerick Institute of Technology.
“Events like these bring the industry together,” said Ó Conchúir. “It’s amazing to think how much the biomedical sector has grown in Ireland over the last few decades – and how we’ve come to excel in this area.” Unlike other growth sectors such as computing, where a lot of the employment is in multinational companies, some 60% of people employed in the biomedical sector in Ireland are in indigenous businesses. Big companies like Abbott, Essilor and Johnson & Johnson were among the first medtech organisations to locate here and they nurtured and generated people with leading-edge experience who ‘spun out’ into their own companies. “Biomedical engineering has caught the imagination of this country and we seem to be pushing an open door. We have critical mass in this area now,” said Ó Conchúir. Also, biomedical products – like software and pharma, two other growth areas – are very valuable in relation to the weight of the product for a particular money value, so they lend themselves to export success.” This leads us to yet another adage: success attracts success. And Ireland’s young biomedical engineers would be wise flock to these lectures, where they can learn from some of the most accomplished professionals in the biomedical field. For full details of the lecture schedule, please click here to download the PDF.