Today health technologies are revolutionizing medical progress. Recent discoveries in disciplines such as metallurgy, plastics, smart textiles, electronics, nanotechnology and even the digital world have opened up new prospects for the life sciences. For the most part, the solutions developed by so-called biotech or medtech companies have been applied in oncology, infectious diseases, neurology and surgery.
France has an ecosystem at the forefront of medical technologies. Its proportion of therapeutic products in phase III (advanced development stage) is higher than the European average. At the intersection of health and engineering, this sector includes more than 600 companies that design and produce medical devices for preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic uses. According to eHealthTech, an association of e-health companies, France is among the top five countries in the world in this market whose volume could exceed 300 billion dollars by 2022.
Christian Lajoux, Chairman of Medicen, a business cluster devoted to developing innovative technologies for health, offers an explanation for this success.
France has a top-notch multidisciplinary scientific environment. There is a dynamic pursuit for excellence and strong industrial know-how. Finally, academic research is well integrated with hospitals, which creates fertile ground for developing biotechnology companies.
Now public institutions have acknowledged the potential of this market. Financing mechanisms, investment programs and export assistance measures have all been set up. French expertise is now recognized worldwide and medtechs make up the third-largest industry for foreign investment, after energy and digital technology. RosaTM, a neurosurgical robotic assistant from Medtech, is the leader in its category and a showcase for French achievement. It is the standard in operating rooms in 12 countries, where it is used to treat pathologies like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and certain tumors. In 2012, its founder Bertin Nahum was named the fourth-leading hightech entrepreneur on the planet after Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and James Cameron by the Canadian magazine Discovery Series.
Medtech also received the Company of the Year Award in the Neurosurgery Robotics category from Frost & Sullivan. A bioglass implant that turns into bone mineral, a bioactive knee ligament prosthetic (Lars), Neuronaute (BioserenityTM), a t-shirt that diagnoses epilepsy, an ultrasound system (SuperSonic Imagine) that identifies micro-tumors without a biopsy, Beta-BioledTM (Achimej Technology), a pocket kit for at-home blood testing (Wandercraft), an exoskeleton to enable paraplegics to walk – a project funded by Xavier Niel (Free) to the tune of 300,000 euros, eyeglasses connected to a retinal implant (Pixium Vision) to restore sight to the blind, a blood test that detects cancer before a tumor even appears (Rarecells® System). These are all French inventions that will radically change how physicians practice and improve patient health.
In December 2014, Professor Alain Carpentier implanted the first artificial heart made by French firm Carmat, resuscitating the world’s hopes for the future of heart transplants. Surgical robotics, imaging, implants, artificial organs, when it comes to new applied technology for medicine, France has a dense network of remarkably successful pioneering companies.