The Medical Device Cluster in Costa Rica: A Conversation with Federico Rivera
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The Medical Device Cluster in Costa Rica with Federico Rivera
VP of Operations
The Central American Group: Hello. Welcome to another installation of the podcasts that the Central American Group does. The purpose of these recordings is to have conversations with people with various expertise in doing business in Central America. Today we have Federico Rivera with us. And Federico is the head of an organization that has to do with the medical device cluster in Costa Rica. But I’ll let Federico introduce himself and tell us about his organization.
Hello, Federico, how are you today?
Federico Rivera: I’m doing just great, Steve. I’m happy to be here. And hello to all the people listening to your interesting podcasts.
The Central American Group: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Medical Device Cluster in Costa Rica?
Federico Rivera: Yes, well, a little bit back. My professional life started as an electrical engineer in Costa Rica, and life took me to various jobs until I did ten years of semiconductor work with intel here in town in Costa Rica. But that was in itself a big learning experience, not only for me but for many professionals that came about and were able to work for this huge company with a worldwide presence. And that opened up many possibilities for me as a professional and for the country. But then, on the side, medical devices were developing, and some of that, again, because of the country’s high capabilities from a technical standpoint. So that in itself fueled up to be right now, the biggest exporting sector in the country. The medical device cluster in Costa Rica represents about 36% of the country’s exports. That’s where I am right now. I’ve worked with various medical device companies over the last few years, and it’s amazing. My career, although technical in the background, has grown through different individual contributor roles, up to top management positions in various companies in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: That’s interesting. Just a little background on the medical device sector in Costa Rica. After Mexico. Costa Rica is the largest exporter of medical devices in Latin America. And that being the case, what kind of companies make up the medical device cluster in Costa Rica?
Federico Rivera: Well, the medical device sector is composed all the way from huge or very large and, say, leaders in their business. Among the medical device companies, we have brands like Boston Scientific and Hologic. We have Edwards Life Sciences and many others that are top-level companies here. There is also a huge base nowadays of suppliers in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica. These companies may do parts, subcomponents, processes, or transformations in some of the materials to supply these companies. So, the sector has grown tremendously, and it’s composed right now of over 90 companies of those types.
The Central American Group: You’ve got several big names, and you’ve just mentioned that a supplier base is developing in Costa Rica like any other place. I would assume there are gaps in the supplier base. What kind of companies aren’t there that you would like to see there as suppliers?
Federico Rivera: I think more and more that gap is being closed. The country’s big drive is to make the local supply of many components or services the sector demands. So over time, what has happened is that most of these big companies in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica come with a process that was already established in a different location. And that means that also the supplier base was from outside. But over time, various other companies using the same suppliers resulted in those looking for their nesting here in Costa Rica. But note also that, but the country in itself. Its local industry has picked up the pace and has started to do programs and fuel up being able to do supply chains internally. Not from companies that come or came with these other big manufacturers, but as local people or local industries say, for example, plastics or precision machining that we’re already present here just now serving and catering for the medical device cluster and with the standards and quality requirements that regulated industry needs.
The Central American Group: Now, for those areas where you’re still looking to get additional suppliers in and preferably domestic suppliers to help the local economy, what’s needed to motivate entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs?
Federico Rivera: That’s a great question because we all want this to grow more because we feel it’s a very socially responsible sector. Most companies that come are very social, environmental, and governance oriented. Products and philosophies are all from corporate organizations that are mature. So, people get the right compensation, people get the right service, people are promoted, and people get incentives to grow. What is missing, though, is the ability to help entrepreneurs or startups succeed. And I specifically talk about governance from the central government to enable these startups in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica to have access to venture capital or angel funds that will help them out during the earlier years of startups to become strong enough to be sustainable and economically feasible. Knowledge is here. We have great knowledge from professionals in all fields. But of course, all that is STEM-related technical side is very strong, but also on the administrative or financial services and such. We have a great pace also happening there. So that the human capabilities are there. It’s more of the business side of the medical device cluster in Costa Rica that needs to mature a little more, and the government right now is centered around that.
The Central American Group: When talking to people that have an interest in Costa Rica, one of the things that we at the Central American Group do is communicate to those individuals that the workforce in Costa Rica is formidable in terms of education and training. Can you comment a little bit on the workforce that you’ve encountered in your activities in your country?
Federico Rivera: Sure. I’m going to start with the first layer, which is the more manual type of work. And we have industries that are fully automated, robotics and what have you, as well as optic systems and inspection, et cetera, all the way to very manual assembly, very demanding on the ability itself of the craftsmanship of the person. It’s a huge area of need, but basically, people do like the fact that the companies back up their professional work with possibilities of development for themselves. So, it’s an opportunity for them to have a stable job with good benefits and being in the right environment but also the possibility to grow further, so that’s entry-level, the operator level has that, and they are very committed to work. Now the next level, let’s call it the administrative level and middle management, and all that there is composed of a very strong professional base of different trades, many of them from the, as I was saying before, technical side, but many of them also from the administrative side. Logistics, supply chain management, EHMS, human resources, of course, you name it. And that group also benefits from the fact that incentives are helping them grow are there.
Federico Rivera: Most companies, I cannot say one that doesn’t have that as part of their compensation package has that as part of the integration because they see workers as a very important means of getting good results. So that is for them. And then you get the third layer which is top management, they call it business leaders, senior executive leaders, directors, VP, etc. And whatever the other organization set up and they basically get exposed to worldwide management, worldwide interaction with all their plans depending on the company, of course, but then they get exposure, and their leadership is tested in a worldwide environment. So, I think all three levels definitely have their challenges to afford or to look forward to, but they also have their benefits. So I think it works really fine in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Okay, as far as the organization that you lead that represents the medical device cluster in Costa Rica, what are some of the things that the organization has achieved thus far?
Federico Rivera: Well, first of all, we have gone through a two-year journey, coming to our third year now in grouping the medical device sector actors. So, we started off as a small group of companies at the time that wanted to create synergy from a sector from a country standpoint. Meaning many of the companies that are here are definitely competing against the market outside of our borders. But here, we need the same services from infrastructure, government laws, educational focus, universities, technical schools, you name it. All the fields are common ground. So, through the help of our investment and promotion agency, CINDE, has done a great job for us and for the sector. Over the last few years, the group has been created, and we have established a force that picks up more advocates daily. The Medical Device Cluster in Costa Rica synergizes in creating the right environment for this sector to grow. Including what we were talking about, the entrepreneurs, and bringing the funding providers to the table to talk and create a holistic medical device sector within Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: I know that you have events and other plans in the future, can you name them for us and give us a chance to know what kind of initiatives you’re involved in?
Federico Rivera: Yes, sure. So as a sector, as the medical device cluster in Costa Rica, we’re seeking precisely the country’s growth. We go in not thinking of what’s in for me as a company, but what’s for us as a country, as a sector within the country. We realized that although we are the biggest exporter in the country right now, we hit $5.2 billion last year, and this year is going to be even higher. So, although that is growing, we definitely want that to continue, not only to continue as the manufacturing sector of medical devices but as an entity that can definitely incentivize and create a system necessary for research and development within the country. Costa Rica’s Health System has a good name, a great name, not only within Latin America but worldwide, and is positioned at number 33. So, we have a great base of knowledge. From a practitioner of medicine standpoint, what we now have is the ability to turn that into a foundry and an opportunity for the development of life sciences within Costa Rica with the knowledge that we already have and with the industry that we already have present in the medical device cluster in Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Well, that’s extremely interesting. It’s exciting to see how the Costa Rican medical device cluster has grown in a relatively short amount of time. One of the things that we experience when we produce and publish these podcasts is that listeners come back to us with questions. We seek to be able to handle those questions in the best possible way. We like to create an environment in which they can contact the interviewees that we have so that they can go directly to the source of information. If somebody wants to ask a question directly about the Costa Rican medical device cluster, how can they contact you, Federico?
Federico Rivera: Sure. As an organization, we have set up some initial systems. Our communication platform is being modified, so I will definitely like to share it with you when it is up and running. But for now, I am available as a point of contact.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I have no problem receiving all questions and inquiries that listeners may have to talk further or explore opportunities. But when we have this new communication platform up and running in a few weeks, I will share it with you so that it can also be shared with your listeners.
The Central American Group: And another thing we’ll do, with your permission, of course, is in the transcript that’s going to be below the audio box that plays the podcast. We can put a link to your LinkedIn profile. Would that be okay?
Federico Rivera: That will be just fine. Absolutely happy to help anyone that needs our support and anything related. Absolutely.
The Central American Group: Well, thanks a lot for joining me today. We appreciate your taking the time to tell us about the exciting things happening in the Costa Rican medical device cluster.
Federico Rivera: Thank you for being here and sharing information about our history and our path forward. Thank you very much.
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