Ageing populations, longer lifetimes and higher quality of life expectations mean that the medical and healthcare markets should remain strong in the long term, both in the EU and within developing countries. Functional pharmaceutical packaging is a key trend, with the packaging not only protecting its contents, but also being key to its administration. The most obvious application is the insulin pen for diabetics, a market currently growing at 9 per cent annually, with a single Irish moulder producing over 100 million items.

Well-publicised increases in the occurrence of diseases such as diabetes and asthma will continue to fuel this growth, as will technological advances, such as the recent announcements surrounding inhaled dry powder insulin. Use of polymers within the body will also continue to increase (again driven by technology and demographics), and ‘personalised treatment’ will emerge as a key trend. One particularly interesting area is the creation of ‘custom’ implants, made to order using rapid manufacturing techniques such as laser sintering, and specifically shaped to fit the needs of the recipient. Another interesting technological advance is the use of polymeric scaffolds based on materials such as polyesters, to support growing cells in tissue engineering situations, to replace or repair damaged material.