According to a recent Irish Times special report, Ireland is the number one European location for pharmaceutical and life sciences investment.
With six out of 10 of the world’s top-selling drugs produced here and 18 of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies have substantial manufacturing operations in Ireland, Ireland is the number one European location for pharmaceutical and life sciences investment.
The report noted that Ireland’s life sciences sector is broadly based and has developed considerable strengths over the past five decades and more and is among the most stable sectors in the economy with a record of near continuous growth throughout its history. Ireland is now firmly established as a world-leading centre of excellence for the manufacture of pharmaceutical and fine chemical products. The industry, which comprises pharmaceutical, fine and specialty chemical and biotechnology companies, is now one of the world’s largest exporters of pharmaceuticals.
The Irish Times special report also focusses on the medical technology sector and noted that Ireland is now recognised as one of just five global hubs for the industry. The sector, which includes 18 of the world’s 25 firms, employs over 29,000 people in Ireland and is the second largest employer of medtech professionals in Europe. Ireland is also one of the largest exporters of medical products in Europe with annual sales of €12.6 billion to more than 100 companies worldwide.
According to KPMG partner Sean O’Keefe, biologics is a particular area of strength. “BMS, Pfizer and Eli Lily have all developed large biologics facilities to manufacture the next wave of large molecule pharmaceutical products here,” he notes. “We’ve also been very good at attracting the new players in this area with Alexion and Regeneron and others making significant investments here.”
The importance of the sector to the economy is quite simply enormous. “Exports associated with industry total around €65 billion,” says Matt Moran, director of industry organisation Biopharmachem Ireland. “The sector employs around 30,000 people directly. It’s been growing and maturing since the 1960s.”
According to the Irish Medtech Association, an additional 4,000 jobs will be added to the medical device industry in Ireland by 2020. Nearly a third of these new jobs will be in specialised areas such as R&D and engineering. This will bring total employment in the sector to more than 33,000.
The industry is by no means confined to overseas companies, according to Enterprise Ireland life sciences director Deirdre Glenn. “The sector is hugely important to the economy,” she says. “From an Enterprise Ireland perspective there are 350 indigenous firms employing 8,000 people with exports of €1.6 billion in 2016.”
This success must be protected, according to KPMG’s Sean O’Keefe. “The sector is very competitive,” he says. “Lots of countries around the world want to attract investments from life sciences companies so Ireland has to be even more competitive to stay ahead of them. We need to produce sufficient numbers of graduates to meet the industry’s needs. As a country we probably need to be investing more in education across the board – primary, secondary and university – to ensure we have pool of talent required now and in the future.”
Science and engineering skills aren’t the only ones in demand. The industry has a growing requirement for accounting and finance professionals, according to KPMG’s Sean O’Keefe. “A number of pharmaceutical companies now have significant back office activities here in Ireland,” he says.
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