Massachusetts Export Center


Boston Business Journal


Export Center helps life sciences cos. go overseas


December 15, 2006
Boston Business Journal
Mark Hollmer Journal staff



It is Paula Murphy's job to help hungry Massachusetts companies break into the global marketplace. And in doing so, she has found the medical device and lab equipment industries to be particularly savvy to the task at hand.


"These companies are producing the kind of products in high demand overseas," said Murphy, director of the Massachusetts Export Center, which is funded by federal and state dollars to help businesses in all industries increase their international opportunities. "And you're finding customers overseas, whether hospitals or labs, who are eager to work with suppliers in those areas."


During an interview with the Boston Business Journal, Murphy offered data showing Massachusetts life sciences companies' overseas interests are on the rise.


The Export Center helped 207 life sciences companies make international business contacts in 2005, for example, up from just 113 companies two years before. Most of those companies operate in the medical device or laboratory equipment space, and expectations are for continued increases in 2006.


Those companies' level of exports has also risen. Medical device and surgical instrument exports jumped 14.5 percent between 2003 and 2004, rose 8.5 percent a year later and so far are up more than 3 percent in 2006. These companies exported close to $2 billion worth of product in 2005, versus $1.8 billion in 2004 and just under $1.6 billion in 2003.


And it turns out that while some companies that come to Murphy are looking to generate opportunities in hot places like China, many others are looking at such places as Western, Central and Eastern Europe, some Latin American countries and other locations in Asia.


The Netherlands was the largest market for Massachusetts medical device and surgical equipment exports in 2005, at more than $713 million. Japan was No. 2, at $370.7 million. Bay State medical device and equipment companies made Germany their third largest export market, at $219.5 million. Mainland China was No. 8, at $33.3 million. Most of the companies are small to midsize, by the way, with 500 or fewer employees, and many are outside of metropolitan Boston.


Among the medical device or equipment companies that have sought Export Center help: Biomedical Polymers Inc. in Gardner, Image Diagnostics Inc. in Sterling, Immunetics Inc. in Boston and Vision-Sciences Inc. in Natick.


Among the top exports: medical, surgical, dental and veterinary instruments. Massachusetts companies exported more than 1.9 billion of them in 2005. During that year, Bay State businesses also exported more than 189 million parts for X-ray equipment and more than 152.8 million pieces of orthopedic equipment such as hearing aids and artificial limbs, according to trade data compiled by the Export Center.


As many medical device and lab equipment companies as Murphy has helped, she's hoping to boost numbers even further in 2007. As part of the state's economic stimulus package passed last summer, the Export Center will be getting $120,000 to fund research for business clients with high potential for international exports.


While the money is intended for any industry, Murphy said she expects a huge response from medical device and lab equipment companies.


"They are very forward-thinking," she said.


One more thing: The Massachusetts Export Center helped 1,300 companies overall in 2005. The center estimated that their work helped translate to 1,582 new and retained jobs in the Bay State.



Mark Hollmer, who covers biotechnology, health care and life sciences, can be reached at




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