Lenstec Inc Barbados – the only medical device manufacturer in the Caribbean – produces intraocular lenses which are surgically implanted inside the eye to remove cataracts. Lenstec’s proprietary lens manufacturing technologies, including micro-precision lathes, mills, polishing equipment and moulds, enable the company to produce premium lenses with reduced variability to help improve surgical predictability.

Having been established in 1995 by New Zealand-born Ian Hickling, the Barbados operation has grown from just four people to a team of 260 employees today. Over the course of time, under Ian’s ongoing stewardship, Lenstec has earned international acclaim for its innovation and design of state-of-the-art medical device technologies, becoming the leading export manufacturer in Barbados during the process.

Recently presented with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies in recognition of his pivotal role in the remarkable success of Lenstec and its wider benefit for Barbados in general, Ian Hickling is a keen advocate for forging stronger links between education and industry.

Ian Hickling in the LensTech lab

Ian Hickling

President of Manufacturing for Lenstec Corporation

I really want to emphasize that all of our lenses are produced right here in Barbados. From our manufacturing plant close to the airport, we design, make, and supply the most technologically advanced intraocular lenses in the world, consistently setting the highest standards when benchmarked against the leading American, German, British, French, Russian, Chinese and Indian manufacturers. We then successfully sell our lenses in the most demanding markets in the world. Our biggest current customers are China, the United States and Europe, and we also export to more than fifty other countries worldwide.
People often suggest that we have every right to feel proud of our global achievements, but what really gives me by far the greatest sense of satisfaction is that all of these world-class lenses are proudly ‘Made in Barbados by Barbadians’. Of the 260 people employed at Lenstec, only two are non-Barbadians, which means that over 99% of our staff are locals – all working hard to fulfill our manufacturing, customer service, research, development, administration, clinical, regulatory, software development and maintenance requirements. Furthermore, 57% of our management team are female.
It is particularly significant that our staff includes over 30 graduates of the University of the West Indies – more than 10% of our workforce – with many of them being scientists. In that regard, I am happy to go on record as saying that had Lenstec not engaged with UWI from the day we opened, then Lenstec would not be where we are today. When we first set up Lenstec, it soon became apparent that several services that we needed for every batch of lenses we made were unavailable on the island. So I worked with the then Dean of Science and offered a summer internship to two honours students in microbiology. After those students set up a laboratory to do testing, we continued to employ them when they graduated. Since then we have had a string of the best UWI students coming through to work in our laboratory, with many of them going on to do Masters or PhDs elsewhere. All of our production control databases, including one that tracks the final destination of every one of the 7 million lenses we have made, were written by staff who are graduates of UWI’s IT programme. We have a team of ten product development scientists, all of whom graduated from UWI. In our business, you must have a constant pipeline of new products to remain competitive. Our research and development team conducts prototype design, manufacture, testing, validation, and writes the complex regulatory submissions that are needed to register these products in international markets.
In essence, UWI is central to what we do. But whereas a university is usually thought of as a place where we send our kids to get degrees, for Lenstec it is a source of knowledge, training, expertise and ideas. I can unreservedly recommend that other businesses in Barbados consider following a similar route and engage with UWI to become a better organisation with better products.
Given that our products cure cataract blindness in more than three quarters of a million patients around the world every single year, it is safe to say that a working collaboration with UWI has certainly proven successful for Lenstec.

Find out more at lenstec.com