CUTTING-EDGE TOOLS

Mexico 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY

Mexico's medical technology industry has experienced strong growth over the past decade as the country has become a manufacturing hub thanks to its competitive advantages and high level of international investment. While still relatively young, it has become a global leader in exports.

The Mexican medical technology industry has several natural competitive advantages, the most important of which is its relationship with the US. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passed in 1994, eliminated restrictions to trade between the two countries, creating a free trade area that Mexican manufacturers have been quick to take advantage of. Its proximity to the largest medical supply market in the world means that US-based medical supply companies have easy access to production facilities, allowing easy quality assurance. Locational proximity is a major reason why most of the Mexican medical supply market is located in Baja California, a stone's throw from the heart of the American medical device industry to the north.

Mexico's established industrial sector provides the production and logistical infrastructure needed to take advantage of its ideal location. Long a major production hub, Mexico has established transportation systems to the US and other global markets, as well as a large worker base that allows for low-cost production on par with China, India, and other popular Asian factory sites. This robust supply chain allows for reliability and the ability for rapid and flexible responses as market requirements change. Mexico's status as a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) gives it access to a host of other markets across the Pacific, as well. One of the clauses of this recent landmark trade agreement was a removal of tariffs on medical devices and regulatory alignment that should result in quicker international approval and implementation, which should allow Mexican firms to continue to provide products to the international market as needed.

The Mexican government provides a solid base of institutional support for the medical technology industry through encouraging foreign investment and science and technology collaboration. ProMéxico, the main federal government agency in charge of increasing Mexico's involvement in the international economy, has been proactive in inviting key entities in the medical device industry to work to chart a course for the sector in the years to come. Looking forward, R&D will be key in keeping the sector internationally competitive. Currently, R&D levels are below what they need to be, but actions are underway to close this gap. A federal grant programs was started in 2012, and Mexico has joined several leading medical device innovation networks in the Americas in a drive to maintain technological innovation. A key effort in this regard is the Medical Device Initiative fund (FUMMDI) implemented by the United States-Mexico Foundation (FUMEC). A joint partnership between the two countries, FUMMDI, seeks to connect Mexican manufacturers with companies that need low-cost medical device manufacturing. Efforts such as these will be essential in forming productive relationships that allow the Mexican medical technology industry to remain at the cutting edge of innovation.
A look at Greatbach is an illustrative example of the potential of Mexican medical technology. Founded in 1970 by Wilson Greatbach, the inventor of the first portable pacemaker, Greatbach opened a facility in Tijuana in 2006. “We wanted an offshore operation outside of the US that would be both competitive and low cost in terms of manufacturing,” Vice President Antonion Gonzalez told TBY. “We decided that Mexico was the place to go in terms of economy, the political climate, and proximity to markets.” Over the past 10 years, Greatbach has watched Tijuana grow into a hub for the medical supply industry. “When we opened our facility 10 years ago, the company had reached about $200 million in total annual sales worldwide,” Gonzalez says. “We now have $1.6 billion in annual sales, and the impact that the Mexico operation has had on our ability to grow in this way is tremendous.” As the sector continues to expand, firms such as Greatback will continue to look to Mexico as a site for quality medical supply production.