Road up­grades vi­tal for in­dus­try

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - LIFE SCIENCES - Áilín Quin­lan

The Life Sciences sec­tor — which in­cor­po­rates com­pa­nies in the ar­eas of med­i­cal de­vices, pharma and biotech — em­ploys more than 50,000 people in Ire­land and is worth an eye-wa­ter­ing an­nual €45 bil­lion in ex­ports.

So when the Govern­ment is warned that a cru­cial el­e­ment of the fur­ther ex­pan­sion of this thriv­ing, pro­duc­tive and lu­cra­tive sec­tor is state in­vest­ment in im­proved in­fra­struc­ture, it’s to be ex­pected that our politi­cians will sit up and lis­ten.

The Cork re­gion is very well po­si­tioned in the sec­tor, and has ca­pac­ity for fur­ther sig­nif­i­cant growth, says Conor Healy, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cork Cham­ber of Com­merce.

This growth must be strate­gi­cally en­abled, he says, by govern­ment in­vest­ment in key in­fra­struc­ture through­out the re­gion.

“From a start­ing point of view, we have the Dun­ket­tle in­ter­change — we ex­pect that this project would be com­pleted by 2021,” he says.

Next, he points to the N28 route to Rin­gask­iddy, de­scrib­ing it as “an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial piece of in­fra­struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly in terms of en­abling the growth of the Life Sciences sec­tor.”

The N28 as a route is of im­por­tance to all busi­ness in Cork.

He says: “For many years many people have been work­ing to get it up­graded. It is now pri­ori­tised in the govern­ment cap­i­tal plan, a cor­ri­dor has been se­lected and there is a call for sub­mis­sions.”

Once this phase is com­pleted, it’s ex­pected that the project will move steadily for­ward with the nec­es­sary govern­ment fund­ing com­mit­ted to the con­struc­tion of the route.

“This route is re­ally im­por­tant in terms of fu­ture in­vest­ment in the Life Sciences sec­tor,” says Mr Healy, who warns that the up­grad­ing of the road is “es­sen­tial” for the fu­ture ex­pan­sion and de­vel­op­ment of Port of Cork.

“It is very im­por­tant in terms of ac­ces­si­bil­ity from the ma­jor sur­round­ing com­muter belts,” he said.

Key im­prove­ments sched­uled to be made to the var­i­ous in­ter­changes will also benefi t the broader pop­u­la­tion spread through the hin­ter­land of Dou­glas, Rochestown, Car­ri­ga­line and Rin­gask­iddy.

How­ever, un­less these cru­cial road-works are car­ried out, he says, over the next few years, the N28 will only con­tinue to be­come busier and in­creas­ingly con­gested.

“For the ben­e­fit of in­dus­try, the broader pop­u­la­tion and the econ­omy, it is im­per­a­tive that the up­grad­ing work goes ahead,” Mr Healy ex­plains.

The Lit­tle Is­land area — an­other sig­nif­i­cant hub for Life Sciences in­dus­tries — is also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chal­lenges in terms of ac­cess and traf­fic move­ment, he warns:

“Over the next pe­riod of time we need to see in­vest­ment in the road in­fra­struc­ture sur­round­ing Lit­tle Is­land in terms of its po­si­tion as a key in­dus­trial hub.”

In this sce­nario, the ap­point­ment of a panel of ex­perts by Cork County Council to carry out a traf­fic man­age­ment study was to be wel­comed, Mr Healy ob­served.

The study will iden­tify and make rec­om­men­da­tions about nec­es­sary im­prove­ments to in­fra­struc­ture which will re­quire fund­ing from both na­tional and lo­cal govern­ment, he said.

He iden­ti­fied an­other area of con­cern as the M20 Cork- Lim­er­ick route which, he says, is cen­tral in terms of the broader en­hance­ment of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity across Mun­ster: “There is a size­able em­ploy­ment pop­u­la­tion mov­ing be­tween Cork and Lim­er­ick and liv­ing in both lo­ca­tions. “One of the is­sues that is re­ally im­por­tant in terms of the Life Sci­ence sec­tor is the avail­abil­ity of a very large and broad­based em­ploy­ment pop­u­la­tion.

“Im­prove­ments in the road in­fra­struc­ture au­to­mat­i­cally widen the avail­able catch­ment area, he points out, thus ben­e­fit­ing the economies of both Cork and Lim­er­ick.

In re­cent months, he ex­plains, the Cham­bers of Com­merce of both cities jointly com­mis­sioned a so­cioe­co­nomic re­port on the mer­its of govern­ment in­vest­ment in the up­grad­ing of the M20.

The re­port’s find­ings high­light the eco­nomic value of this route and the im­por­tance that it plays in terms of fa­cil­i­tat­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of over-ca­pac­ity on the route.

The job cre­ation po­ten­tial in the case of nec­es­sary in­vest­ment in that in­fra­struc­ture is ex­pected to be con­sid­er­able.

After all, the record of the Life Sci­ence sec­tor is vir­tu­ally un­par­al­leled when it comes to in­vest­ment in the Cork re­gion.

It’s been a fact of life here for decades — since 1969, in fact, when Pfizer made its first in­vest­ment in Rin­gask­iddy.

This ini­tial project paved the way for sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment by a wide range of global pharma lead­ers in sub­se­quent years:

“Over the last 15 years or so, we have seen the de­vel­op­ment of the biotech sec­tor which is mak­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion.

“This is a ma­jor growth sec­tor glob­ally, and, con­sid­er­ing our track record, our skill avail­abil­ity and the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment here in the re­gion, it is a sec­tor that has ca­pac­ity for sig­nif­i­cant fur­ther growth.”

In the med­i­cal de­vices area too, the south-west re­gion has ben­e­fited from long-stand­ing in­vest­ment by global com­pa­nies. The same is true of the na­tional pic­ture, Mr Healy em­pha­sises, not­ing that this is a key sec­tor in at­tract­ing a lot of in­ter­est from global in­vestors.

“In terms of the con­tri­bu­tion, all of these com­pa­nies in the Life Sciences area are ex­cel­lent em­ploy­ers, pro­vid­ing high qual­ity well paid em­ploy­ment across a whole range of dis­ci­plines,” he ex­plains.

On top of that, he points out, the value of the in­vest­ment by these com­pa­nies year-on-year in the lo­cal econ­omy in terms of main­te­nance and up­grad­ing of plant fa­cil­i­ties as well as in­ter­nal in­vest­ments, is ex­tremely high.

“It re­sults in sig­nif­i­cant spend in the lo­cal econ­omy, work­ing with sub- con­trac­tors who meet the re­quire­ments of these com­pa­nies,” he says.

How­ever, he warns, some­times the value of those on­go­ing in­vest­ments by ex­ist­ing busi­ness in the re­gion i s not recog­nised and ac­knowl­edged to the ex­tent that it should be.

“This is real, year- on- year, on­go­ing in­vest­ment at a very sig­nif­i­cant level,” he says, warn­ing that i t can be wrongly over­shad­owed by ex­cit­ing new in­vest­ment an­nounce­ments.

“The tech sec­tor has been to the fore­front in re­cent years, but the ex­ist­ing life sciences sec­tor con­tin­ues to in­vest in the lo­cal econ­omy and cre­ate ad­di­tional em­ploy­ment.

This should not be for­got­ten,” he says.

Pic­ture: Shauna Kennedy

Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Cham­ber, and Dr James Ring, CEO of Lim­er­ick Cham­ber pic­tured in Charleville at the start of the study into plans to up­grade the M20 Cork-Lim­er­ick mo­tor­way.

Pic­ture: Gavin Browne

Traf­fic at the Dun­ket­tle Round­about leav­ing the Jack Lynch tun­nel.

Conor Healy

CORK CHAM­BER OF COM­MERCE chief ex­ec­u­tive

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