CINDE: What Fuels Medical Devices Leadership in Costa Rica?

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, April 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ —  Medical devices have become a leading product in Costa Rica, to…

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, April 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ —  Medical devices have become a leading product in Costa Rica, to the point that today they represent the country’s top export product.

Twenty years ago, there were only eight life sciences companies in Costa Rica; today, there are 81 that create more than 38,248 jobs. Of these, women are well represented, occupying 52% of all positions. 

Despite challenges due to the pandemic, medical devices continue to demonstrate dynamic growth in export products from Costa Rica in 2020 (+8%) and a 23% growth during the first two months of 2021 – an absolute variation of $138 million.

So, what is the reason for the sector’s growth in Costa Rica? For the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), the reasons fall within four compelling areas:

1.  A Proven Track Record 

Costa Rica has demonstrated a solid track record in attracting and establishing multinational companies – global leaders in the life sciences industry. As proof of this, 12 out of 30 MedTech companies successfully maintain operations in Costa Rica in 14 different categories.

Eight of these companies belong to the 20 largest exporters in Costa Rica; in 2019, these exporters accounted for 73% of all medical device exports.

With this experience, Costa Rica ranks #2 in Latin America and the Caribbean for exporting medical devices, surpassed only by Mexico.

These are part of the reasons why, today, companies such as Boston Scientific, Abbott, Medtronic, Edwards Lifesciences, Terumo, ICU Medical, and Smith & Nephew, among many others, operate within the country.

2.  Greater Added-Value from Class I to Class III 

Multinational companies in the life sciences help save thousands of lives globally; this is supported, too, through Costa Rica’s medical devices manufacturing. They range from class I to class III, under the standards of the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

That is possible thanks to 20 years of prior growth: from export production in just five categories – women’s health, surgical, dental, and aesthetic devices; and medical delivery systems – to today in which 14 categories embrace more diverse areas, including medical devices for optics, neuromodulation, orthopedics, cardiovascular, radiology, and respiratory, among others.

3.  Higher Productivity and R&D

Since 1999, Costa Rica has seen a 61% growth in MedTech sector productivity.

According to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica is the country with the second-best pay and productivity in the field, preceded only by Chile. 

That superior performance goes hand in hand with having multilingual personnel trained to work in cleanrooms, to handle FDA requirements, and communicate in more than five languages. Costa Ricans also have experience in ISO and Six Sigma standards, among others.

Likewise, Costa Rica is working on research and development (R&D) projects, with exports worth US$172 million in 2019 and with an average annual growth of 3% since 2015.

4.  Partnerships for More Specialized Talent

With help from CINDE, Costa Rica has built alliances with prestigious universities to transmit knowledge in the smart manufacturing sector.

Such is the case in agreements with Rice University and Wisconsin Stout University, as well as the Tecnológico de Costa Rica with the University of Minnesota for its master’s program in medical device engineering.

Likewise, companies including Edwards Lifesciences have teamed up with the National Learning Institute (INA) to train people in the production of medical devices and, thus, create a more specialized pool of human talent.

These are just a few examples of a robust ecosystem’s efforts to create the next era of life sciences, in which Costa Rica continually demonstrates its potential in medical devices, the pharmaceutical sector, and biotechnology. 

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