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Mass. medical devices among fastest growing exports

Medical devices are one of the fastest growing segments of the state's export economy, according to new research released Wednesday by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute.

The study, which was commissioned by MassMEDIC, the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, finds medical devices comprised 10.5 percent of the Bay State's total exports in 2006 and brought in approximately $2.5 billion. The group said that one of every $10 dollars brought into Mass. from export sales is from medical devices. Most of the devices are being shipped to Western Europe and Asia, which are the top two markets for the industry, the report said.

The industry generated $8.3 billion in economic activity and employed nearly 50,000 directly and indirectly in the state, according to the report.

The last time an assessment of the industry was done in 2004, medical devices made up $2.1 billion of the state's exports and the industry's total economic impact was $7.3 billion. Globalization and demand for health care services and products worldwide contributed significantly to the growth, according to Michael Goodman, director of economic and public policy research at the UMass Donahue Institute.

"We're in an era where slow but steady improvements in other parts of the world are also playing themselves out as an economic driver here in this country through growing demand for these kinds of products," said Goodman.

On a national level, Massachusetts' medical device exports represented 9 percent of total industry exports in the U.S. in 2006. Goodman said the Bay State faces its biggest competition in the industry from Minnesota and California. The research, according to Goodman, found Massachusetts ranks second behind Minnesota for total per capita employment in the medical device sector. Factors such as access to research-oriented hospitals and a well-educated workforce, qualities all three states possess, are critical to innovation in the medical device field.

"Often times medical practitioners develop new techniques and devices in their practice and then companies market the technology," said Goodman. "Medical device firms want to be in close proximity to those on the cutting edge of excellence."

"I think we are in a unique position in that we not only have one research hospital in the state, we have access to scores of them," said Tom Sommer, president of MassMEDIC. "In comparison to Minnesota and other states, and our status as a major exporter here in Massachusetts, we are well positioned for future growth."

Joan Goodchild can be reached at

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