Abstract:The medical device industry in Europe is in big trouble. They have lost the technology and competitiveness war with the Chinese medical industry.

China’s medical technology has surpassed Europe’s top technology.

Frans Vandenbosch 方腾波 21.06.2024

Look closely at this photo. Can you see what’s wrong with this photo?

I saw it with the naked eye.  

The past 3 days I have spent at the MedTech Messe in Stuttgart. There were some 200 exhibitors from all over the globe. Many German companies, subcontractors to the medical device industry. Companies from Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, etc. Also 2 American, 1 Japanese, 2 Flemish and 7 Chinese companies.
The national flag of all these countries was shown at the entrance, except for the Chinese flag.

Copying or benchmarking?

Many western companies were complaining about “the Chinese, who’re copying our products”. But digging a bit deeper with the question: “Did they bluntly copied your products ?”  or: “Did they broke any of your patents ?” the answers became remarkably vague or nugatory.

Chinese manufacturers of medical devices and their component subcontractors (finally) learned the art of technical benchmarking. They no longer copy western products. They collect the 3 or 5 best in class products of their competitors, analyse it and design an entirely new product with a collection of top characteristics of the best products of their competitors.
When I taught Technical Benchmarking at Qingdao University back in 2010, it was a completely unknown novelty in China. But today, technical benchmarking is a common practice in China.
Technical benchmarking is in use for several decades in the whole Western automotive (and other) industries; I was happy to see that the Chinese also adopted this technique and dropped the blunt copying addiction.


Already 20 years ago, almost all ordinary, soft, indwelling lung or vein catheters for western hospitals were made in China. They were all made in PVC, which was at that time regarded as a medical grade plastic material.
Today they’re still made in China, much more accurate, softer and in a range of much more body friendly materials.

At the first photo, there are two needles. The left one is made in pure silver, the other one is in titanium, the diameter is 0.64 mm. Both these needles are made by impact-extrusion !

At the second photo is a brain surgery catheter with a diameter of 0.3 mm. There’s no western company able to make this product.

Both these processing techniques used to be very common in the western industry. Toothpaste tubes for example were made by the impact-extrusion process. But the process is now much further developed, the new fine tricks of the profession are no longer present in the western industry. Today it is China that holds the new patents for these manufacturing processes.


All leading top companies of the Deutsche Feinmechanik were present at the MedTec Messe. They exhibit their tiny micro products, small gears and mechanical robots that do their work within the human body, some barely visible with the naked eye.

But again, asking them about their limits in technology, the tolerances and reliability of these micro components, they suddenly become very insecure and vague. None of them dared to guarantee a tolerance of 1 micron (1 μm,  1×10−6 meter) on their products.
I did not tell them that back in 2015, I have made products of that accuracy level in Wuxi, China.

Today, most of the IPP (intrathecal pain pump) and IDP (intrathecal drug pump) devices, ICD (implant cardioverter defibrillator), AED (automated external defibrillator) are all made in China. They are meeting the highest quality and reliability requirements, often at a cost of 1/4th of the cost in Europe.

The Chinese exhibitors

The Chinese companies at the MedTec Messe were all remarkably modest. They displayed their products as if they were ordinary items. No marketing language, no bluff, just technical information. That makes me wonder whether China is aware of its technological lead ?

The complainers

The medical device industry in Europe is under high pressure, they’re undergoing the daily competition with China. Some refuse to talk about this issue, others openly accuse China of copying western products. Which is lame and unfounded. (see here above) The “copying” blaming has become an artificial narrative which is, I suspect, prompted by the mainstream media.

A few of these companies know what it all comes to. They realise that they’re doomed. A CEO of a company that I spoke there at the MedTec Messe became quite emotional and frustrated. He named the lack of top engineering education as one of the main causes. And our government, instead of supporting us, is actually boycotting us, he said. And: “In five years, it’s all over with my company


In summary, I must conclude that the medical device industry in Europe is in big trouble.  Those who’re aware what’s going on at this globe are looking for cooperation or joint ventures with Chinese companies. But most of them do not have that broad view on global affairs and are doomed. At a conference, organised by AstraZeneca China in Wuxi on 7 and 8 June 2024, the industry experts came to the same conclusion, but the report by ChinaDaily did not put it so clearly.

In this context, also read my article The Yin and Yang of traditional Chinese and Western healthcare  another field where China has surpassed the West.