Which medical field is best for engineers

Industry profile medical technology

Germany is considered a high-tech location for medical technology. The need for sophisticated medical care equipment makes it an interesting industry for engineers. It is an important economic factor with high growth potential.

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Medical technology has become more and more important in the past few decades. Because the older we get, the greater the challenges of staying healthy. In order to keep the quality of life high for as long as possible, more and more complex technology is used. Medical devices help heal and save lives. Whether in prevention, diagnostics, treatment or rehabilitation - it is impossible to imagine any of these medical areas without technical aids. From new materials for plasters to X-ray machines: The medical technology industry develops aids of all types and sizes.

Medical technology is a very dynamic industry. New products come onto the market at a rapid rate and existing products are optimized and expanded. The medical technology industry is the leader in patent applications: In 2016, a good 12,200 patent applications for medical technology products were submitted to the European Patent Office in Munich. There was no other industry with a similar number of registrations.

History of medical technology

Compared to medicine itself, medical technology is a relatively young industry - only a good 100 years old. Although there were wound dressings in ancient times, there was still no talk of research and development. The "iron lung", a device for artificial ventilation that was invented in 1929, is one of the milestones in medical technology. The first dialysis treatment was carried out as early as 1945. The device developed in the Netherlands marked the breakthrough in renal replacement therapy. In 1953, thanks to the invention of the heart-lung machine, the first open heart surgery could be carried out. The first pacemaker was implanted in 1958 and the first hip prosthesis a year later. The first MRI image of the human body was created in 1977. In 1980 an implantable defibrillator was used for the first time and in 1986 the first coronary stents. The medical technology developments of the new millennium include the first catheter-supported heart valve replacement (2002) and the first electrode-free pacemaker (2014).

Employees, sales and exports in medical technology

In 2017, 137,857 people worked in 1,310 medical technology companies. This is an increase over the previous year in terms of both the number of employees and the number of companies. The number of employees grew by 3.9%, the number of companies rose by 4.1%. The medical technology sector is very medium-sized, with more than 93% of the companies employing fewer than 250 people. Most medical technology companies are in Baden-Württemberg (252), North Rhine-Westphalia (215) and Bavaria (167).

Between 2010 and 2016, the medical technology industry achieved an average annual sales growth of 5%. That number dropped to 2.5% in 2017. In medical technology, a Sales of 29.93 billion euros earned. Even if the increase in sales has fallen slightly, the industry is benefiting greatly from the demographic development and the generally increasing importance of maintaining health.

At home sales in 2017 were around 10.85 billion euros. Bavarian companies generate the most sales (5.8 billion euros), with Hessen in second place with 3.2 billion euros, ahead of Schleswig-Holstein with 2.2 billion euros. Schleswig-Holstein is only about in the middle when it comes to the number of farms with 69 in the national comparison.

Far more sales was made abroad achieved: 2017 it was 19.08 billion euros. The export quota was 64%. Foreign business is of great importance for the industry. 42% of all medical technology products were exported within the EU. At this point in time, companies already felt the Brexit clearly: exports to Great Britain were 7% below the 2016 level. In return, demand from the USA (2%) and China (4%) rose, albeit weakly . Within Europe, Germany has the medical technology sector with the highest turnover. Of the industry's turnover of 95 billion euros across Europe, 32.4 billion euros were generated by German companies. That corresponds to 34%. Ireland follows in second place (EUR 11.6 billion), and France in third place (EUR 11 billion).

The Future expectations are overall positive. An increase in sales is also expected for 2019. For the next few years, experts again expect annual sales growth of 5%. The largest turnover is currently made with medical technology in orthopedics as well as in minimally invasive medicine and cardiology technology. By the way: half of the industry's turnover is regularly made with products that are fresh on the market, i.e. less than 3 years old.

The study of medical technology

The medical technology course is divided into a bachelor's and master's degree and usually takes 3 years (bachelor's) and a further 2 years for the master's. If a practical semester is planned, this will be added. Medical engineering courses are available at universities, technical colleges and professional academies, with the technical colleges having the largest offer. The number of providers of this course is growing rapidly, as the research area is also growing. Interested parties need a general university entrance qualification (Abitur) or a technical college entrance qualification (Fachabitur). Interest in medicine and mechanics as well as the so-called mint subjects mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology is expected. The courses of study are usually very small. This is an advantage for the students. Because in this way the universities of applied sciences can guarantee a better education for the individual.

In addition to studying general medical technology, there are several Specializationswhich are only offered at individual universities. These include:

  • Ophthalmic optics / optometry
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Bionics
  • Dental technology
  • Hearing technology and audiology
  • Mathematical biometrics
  • Medical engineering
  • Medical informatics
  • Medical biotechnology
  • Medical physics and radiation protection
  • Medical-technical informatics
  • Orthobionics
  • Sports medicine technology
  • Sports and rehab engineering

These subject-specific courses contain many modules that are also required in the general medical technology course. These include medical biophysics, medical electronics, hygiene technology, device construction, cell biology and image processing.

Whether and to what extent the special courses in particular are subject to admission restrictions (numerus clausus) differs from university to university. However, in many cases there is an NC for the Bachelor in General Medical Technology and this is - compared to other engineering courses - relatively high. The required grade is between 1.7 and 2.2.

How small the individual courses are can be seen in the example of medical informatics: In the past 4 years, the number of students across Germany was between 2,700 and 2,900. Almost 40% of the students were women.

Company / engineering employer in medical technology

Medical technology companies primarily manufacture medical devices. The spectrum ranges from large devices (MRI, X-ray, CT) to blood pressure monitors for the home. Some companies have specialized and supply the manufacturers with important individual parts for the equipment. A selection (sorted alphabetically):

  1. Bauerfeind AG (supports, orthoses, insoles and compression stockings)
  2. Binder GmbH (incubators, incubators, climatic cabinets, material test cabinets, drying cabinets, heating cabinets, simulation cabinets)
  3. Biotronik (cardiological medical technology, including pacemakers)
  4. Dentsply Sirona (dental equipment and dental consumables)
  5. Drägerwerk AG & Co. KGaA (ventilators, incubators, patient monitoring)
  6. Dürr Dental SE (technology for dentistry)
  7. GS Elektromedizinische Geräte G. Stemple GmbH (defibrillators, patient monitoring systems, chest compression devices)
  8. Intuitive Surgical ("Da Vinci" - robot-assisted surgical systems)
  9. KARL STORZ SE & Co. KG (endoscopy devices)
  10. KIND Hörgeräte GmbH & Co. KG (hearing systems)
  11. Medtronic GmbH (medical technology e.g. for the fields of cardiology, neurology, diabetology)
  12. Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe (endoscopy, high-frequency surgery and system integration in the operating room)
  13. Otto Bock HealthCare Deutschland GmbH (prostheses, orthoses, Rollchairs)
  14. Philips GmbH (medical devices of all sizes for clinics and private use)
  15. Seca Germany (medical measurement technology and precision scales)
  16. Servona GmbH (ventilators and supplies for intensive care medicine, supplies for private care, orthopedic and rehabilitation technology)
  17. Sonova Group (hearing systems and implants)
  18. Stryker (operation planning and assistance systems, orthopedic and medical technology products)
  19. Sysmex Europe GmbH (systems for hematology and urine analysis)
  20. Waldemar Link GmbH & Co. KG (endoprosthetics, surgical instruments, splints)

The sub-areas of medical technology

Medical technology combines technical expertise with the specialist knowledge of doctors. There is a correspondingly wide range not only in companies, but also in the sub-areas of medical technology. The sub-sectors include:

  • Imaging diagnostics (MRT, CT, X-ray, ultrasound devices, scintigraphy)
  • Bionics (transferring natural properties to technology)
  • Health informatics
  • Hospital technology (e.g. laboratory systems, intensive care devices, equipment)
  • Medical devices (e.g. pacemakers, dialysis machines, visual aids, hearing systems)
  • Medical informatics
  • Medical physics
  • Optometry
  • Orthopedic technology (e.g. prosthesis development)
  • Rescue engineering
  • Tissue engineering (artificial organs)

Careers in medical technology

The broad spectrum of medical technology is dependent on numerous key technologies. These include microsystem technology, nanotechnology, optical technologies and information and communication technology applications. The range of professions that engineers can take up in medical technology is correspondingly large.

Medical technology graduates mainly work in the medical technology industry, but also in hospitals and research institutes. They develop medical devices, work as computer scientists in clinics, advise medical technology companies or work in science and research. The future prospects are good. Because medical technology is an innovative field that will develop rapidly in the coming decades due to demographic change alone.

People are getting older. But everyone wants to stay fit as long as possible - and that costs something. Anyone who gets sick wants to be given the latest medication and treated with the most modern therapy. This promises good growth opportunities for the medical technology market and the associated high demand for specially trained specialists. 84% of medical technology companies state that they have vacancies. We are primarily looking for medical technicians and engineers.

The future of medical technology

A German medical technology company invests an average of around 10% of its sales in the research and development of new technologies. That is more than twice as much as the average industrial company invests. And it shows: the industry has a future. This is confirmed by the German Medical Technology Association (BVMed). However, he also points out the problems. Above all, regulatory requirements pose major challenges for companies. The association calls for a faster procedure for the benefit assessment. The US licensing authority has already accelerated the process - Germany should therefore not allow itself to be left behind, according to the association.

A very interesting market in the future for German medical technology Japan be. The population there is aging even more than in the western industrialized nations. In addition, the country is one of the most populous in the world in terms of area. Japan itself exports little, and domestic medical technology companies such as Toshiba, Tirumo and Hitachi can hardly meet demand. To do this justice, Japan has to import a large part of its medical technology. This is a great opportunity for German manufacturers, especially since products “Made in Germany” have a good reputation in Japan.

One of the greatest challenges in medical technology It will be in the coming decades to enable people to lead an independent life well into old age. Especially against the background of the shortage of skilled workers. New medical technology devices can ensure that people in old age and with chronic illnesses can cope better and are cared for better than is still the case today.

Much of it still sounds like a dream of the future: for example, wheelchairs that can be controlled via the ear muscles, contact lenses that measure blood sugar or implantable, intelligent eye lenses that are able to deform themselves as a natural eye lens can. In the future, implanted sensors with connected remote data transmission could help to detect heart diseases earlier - so far, such monitoring has only been possible in the intensive care unit. Implantable microsystems can also help to monitor patients with epilepsy over the long term.

In any case, sensor technology will be a real factor in medical technology in the future. This will be exciting due to the miniaturization of sensors and batteries. This makes sensor technology interesting for acute treatment and diagnostics. Heartbeat, blood pressure, temperature or respiratory function could be monitored by implanted chips. All of the above are currently being researched and developed. Some things already exist, the engineers are working on improvements. In medical technology, like no other industry, the following applies: Innovation is progress when it is better than the status quo.


Jobs in medical technology

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