Swiss Company to foster innovative medical device ...

Swiss Company to foster innovative medical device manufacturing in Australia

Key Takeaways
  • To solve the problem of medical device innovation, Swiss MedTech engineer Robert Frigg founded 41medical. 41medical is recognised for its quality design and manufacturing, as well as its speed and efficiency.
  • Prof. Michael Schuetz, a surgeon and innovator, is starting 61medial as a subsidiary of 41medical in Australia to strengthen Australian MedTech goals.

We all know that medical device manufacturing is challenging – COVID19 has only reinforced that – and has to follow a highly regulated, industrial process to meet the requirements from regulatory bodies so that the devices can find their way to practical use in patients. This is the case globally and requires a deep understanding of all necessary components to be successful in the long run in an internationally competitive market.

Switzerland is the global leader in innovation and MedTech considering that a population of 8.5 million has produced a mature, long-standing, highly regarded Medtech industry with 1400 companies, 58.000 employees and an annual sale of 26 billion AUS$ in 2018.

The Australian landscape in medical device development is considered strong up to the proof of concept stage. Still, it gets significantly weaker in bringing medical devices or technology into patient care, where the real value is created. This has been realised by Australian investors, universities, start-up companies, and government agencies, addressing this gap with significant targeted federal funding and other initiatives. Despite those efforts, the challenge remains that the journey of any medical device after the proof of concept is an industrial process. Regulatory and production aspects have to be addressed and followed with the highest quality to create value. 

As long as ten years ago, one of the leading Swiss MedTech engineers, Robert Frigg, previous CTO of Synthes, one of the largest medical device companies worldwide, saw challenges for young innovators, universities and start-up companies to understand and meet the standards for legal manufacturing to bring their innovations into patient care. “After spending a significant amount of money and time, most of those ideas ended nowhere (the feared “Valley of Death”), while the multinational MedTech companies had become only interested in clinically proven devices, and not in any early ideas or concepts.”

As Synthes was sold to Johnson & Johnson in 2011, Mr Frigg and the best engineers from his team analysed the problem of medical device innovation, and as a consequence, they founded 41medical. It was supported by funding from Mr Hansjoerg Wyss, the previous main stakeholder of Synthes. As a legal manufacturer with its own highest quality design and manufacturing capacity, 41medical started to partner with Swiss universities and development incubators to overcome this gap in a highly competitive market in 2015. Since then, multinational MedTech Firms like Storz, KLS Martin and even DPS Synthes have become partners or customers, recognising the speed and efficiency that 41medical can offer. This is based on the highly agile team, the quality system and the strong network of critical suppliers of 41medical located in the centre of Swiss MedTech.

Prof. Michael Schuetz, a surgeon and innovator, has been working with Mr Frigg for 30 years on innovative devices and returned to Australia in late 2018. He considered the model of 41medical ideal to strengthen Australian MedTech goals. “Australia and its surrounding countries face particular challenges, which is a great base for innovation, but solutions must meet highest quality standards matched with speed so that Australian solutions can succeed in an international highly competitive and challenging arena”.

At that time, the idea was born to establish 61medial as a subsidiary of 41medical in Australia. This idea was carefully explored and received seed funding from Queensland Government to be established in 2020.

Robert Frigg (left) with former Australian Ambassador to Switzerland Lynette Wood on her visit to 41medical in Bettlach in October 2019.

Mr Ian Walker, Chairman 61medial board and previous minister for science and innovation in Queensland, visited 41medical in Bettlach/CH and immediately became convinced that with this close and trustful partnership, the skills and education acquired would also enrich Australia’s Innovation landscape in the years to come. “While 61medical is planning to build up its manufacturing capacity in Australia, we can commence right away to take on projects for all medical devices up to Class III in Australia – because we can rely immediately on 41medical and its valuable, longstanding network. It is my clear vision and goal to establish 61medical as an Australian manufacturing company to strengthen Australia’s R&D revenue with the incalculable added benefit of Swiss Quality.”

In the meantime, 41medical has expanded its quality system to integrate electronics into medical devices (“smart devices”). It can even provide funding for innovators who want to develop medical devices development based on its early success.

Mr Pedro Zwahlen (second from right), the Ambassador of Switzerland to Australia, after giving a keynote speech on “innovation and Medtech in Switzerland” at an event jointly organised by 61Medical and the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. Prof. Margaret Sheil also attended the event, vice-Chancellor at QUT (middle), Prof. Robbi Frig, chairman at 41Medical (on the screen) and Prof. Michael Schuetz, director of the Jamieson Trauma Institute in Brisbane and the Chair for Trauma at QUT (first from the right).

For further information, please contact Mr Ian Walker via e-mail (

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