A record year for exporting has further secured a Brisbane-based medical manufacturer’s standing on the world stage.
Cook Medical Australia, a leader in research and development of endovascular stents and IVF technologies, posted a 25 per cent increase in exports last year on the back of higher demand for its products.
In 2014, the company manufactured more than 10,000 stent grafts – used for the treatment of aortic aneurysms – along with more than 3000 custom-made medical devices and 750,000 needles to assist in the treatment of reproductive health.
All up, 92 per cent of its locally manufactured products were exported last year, totalling $119.3 million.
Managing director Barry Thomas says Australia has carved out a significant global position in medical devices, with companies such as Cook Medical, ResMed and Cochlear among those leading the charge.
He says the three companies contribute almost 20 per cent of total inventions filed in the medical devices field for Australia, citing the latest Australian Medical Devices Patent Analytics Report.
Cook Medical Australia, established in 1974, serves as the Asia Pacific headquarters for Cook Inc., the largest privately owned medical device company in the world. Its locally developed medical technology is exported to more than 135 countries.
But despite the bulk of its customers living thousands of kilometres away, Mr Thomas says the company is committed to supporting and promoting local manufacturing, particularly because its aortic stent grafts were developed and commercialised from Australia.
“We believe in keeping R&D and manufacturing together because there are so many advantages that we can take by keeping both under the same roof,” says Mr Thomas.
“I am dedicated to continue leading one of the few remaining and highly successful Australian advanced technology medical device manufacturing companies and retain local manufacturing and local research and development.”
Mr Thomas says with more than 475 full-time staff, the company is dedicated to pioneering innovative medical solutions to help patients worldwide, which could in the future include Europe’s ageing populations and Asia’s rising middle-class.
“We are always looking in the pipeline for new ideas,” he says. “We have been working with and will continue to work with physicians, innovators research centres, universities and anyone else who is willing to back themselves with an idea that fits within our company mould. If it doesn’t, we will try and help find someone that can.”
Like any manufacturer, Cook Medical faces challenges, with Mr Thomas noting Australia’s manufacturing environment as a key concern.
He says government policy needs to better support Australia becoming an advanced manufacturing hub.
“Medicine and medical devices can be a complex field, but if the correct manufacturing and research environment can be created, Australia has the opportunity to become the world leader in this field and the home to a new wave of innovative and progressive companies.”
In the meantime, Cook Medical takes a straightforward approach to fostering innovation.
“You back the people you work with. Pretty simple but you cannot be afraid to take a risk,” says Mr Thomas. “Innovation means that a risk was taken and it paid off.”