Infrastructure key to sustaining industry
Between now and 2040, Cork has the potential to develop into a region characterised by an excellent quality of life, with a highly skilled, educated and dynamic workforce with unique clusters in a range of leading industries, says Matt Moran, director of the Ibec group BioPharmaChem Ireland (BPCI).
The BCPI is chaired by Seamus Fives of Pfizer. Its board includes executives from Janssen, Hovione, Eli Lilly, GE Healthcare, Biomarin and Teva, among others.
In March, Ibec published its views on this potential as part of its submission to the Government’s National Planning Framework. For the south of Ireland to thrive, road links between Cork,Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Dublin will have to be reformed.
“Ringaskiddy is home to a very significant life sciences cluster and is designated a strategic employment area,” Ibec states. “Employees working in companies in the area regularly report that daily traffic congestion, travelling to and from work, is seriously impacting their quality of life. Continued failure to invest in the N28 Cork to Ringaskiddy road will hinder Ireland’s economic recovery and will very likely put future local/regional development at risk.”
Matt Moran agrees that, while on the surface, it may appear like an access issue confined to Ringaskiddy, the bigger picture in terms of reputational damage and the perception internationally of both Cork and Ireland as ‘a great place to do business’ needs to be taken into account.
“Access is a very important issue,” he said. “Some companies have premises on both sides of the harbour, and they’re finding it very difficult to get people from one site to the other.
“Expansion at the GE Healthcare Biopark will put more pressure on traffic flow. This issue is directly tied into the traffic going onto the Dunkettle roundabout. It is a huge issue for the biotech companies, who’ve made over €4.5bn in capital investments in the past two years.
“The sector is responsible for over half of the money being generated by the Irish economy each year. These infrastructure issues need to be taken seriously.”
Mr Moran said a recent Future Skills Needs study conducted for the Government showed that the sector will need 8,000 skilled staff in the next few years. Ibec says it is working with Ireland’s universities, and with the Skillnets and Springboard programmes to ensure they are aware of the opportunities the sector is creating.
Another recent BPCI report, ‘Molecules Make a Difference’, says 55,000 people are employed directly and indirectly in the biopharma, pharma and chemical sector. The replacement value of the sector to the Government is estimated to be €40bn. In 2015, the sector exported products to the value of €64bn.
The document was given a formal launch in New York recently, attended by more than 100 industry leaders. The Irish delegation was led by Ibec, along with key people from the IDA and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (Nibrt).
“We always look to project an image of the Government working with industry,” said Matt Moran. “The message of joined-up thinking and collaboration was understood by the American industry people who attended the launch.
“We want to ensure that the sector continues to grow, and that growth depends on companies expanding their footprint, and growing from manufacturing roles into research and new product development.”
Mr Moran said a lot of indigenous Irish companies have seen growth in demand for the contract services they provide to multinationals in the life sciences sector.
Ibec also wants to see more Irish companies grow in this sector. He cited example of APC Ltd in Dublin, an Irish pharmaceutical research company and a spin-out from UCD which has continue to grow since last year’s move into new offices at Cherrywood Business Park.
APC partners with eight of the top ten pharma and five of the top ten biotech firms in the world. Some 80% of its services are export-driven and the company aims to reach revenues of €50 million by 2020.
Ibec’s submission to the National Planning Framework also notes that the Cork region currently has the poorest road surface quality in the country, impacting on the cost of doing business and competitiveness in every sector. Ibec is calling for crucial upgrading of the national road network including the M20 Cork-Limerick, N25 Cork-Rosslare, the N8/N25 Dunkettle Interchange, N22 Macroom-Ballyvourney, N28 Cork-Ringaskiddy and the Cork Northern Ring Road.
The most urgent priority is to position the Southern and Western regions with strong growth engines — Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway. This will require new strategic thinking and an approach that maximises the opportunity for Cork to partner with Waterford, Limerick and Galway economic centres, while pursuing a growth and investment strategy for the urban centres in the region. This strategy would also focus on addressing the bottlenecks and deficiencies arising from the excessive growth in Dublin.
“The Government understands the need to upgrade the roads and so does the IDA,” said Matt Moran. “We are talking to them. We know that there can sometimes be limited resources, but we are taking every opportunity to stress the importance to these companies of ongoing access and transport issues.”
Meanwhile, Ibec’s Cork regional executive committee has also made the upgrade of the Cork-Limerick M20 motorway a key priority.
Limerick and Cork account for one-third of Ireland’s population outside of Dublin.
“The upgrade of the M20 will lead to many direct and indirect benefits including increased commercial and business links (e.g. supply chains/cluster development), increased talent pool for businesses, effects on productivity, spatial pattern of economic development, more efficient and cost effective movement of people and goods with safer and shorter travel times,” states the Ibec submission to the NPF.
“Enhanced connectivity between cities would promote city-to-city collaboration which would boost trade, create growth, job opportunities and deliver meaningful balanced regional development,” states Ibec. “As economic growth, trade and the concentration of population in cities increases it will intensify demand for inter-urban transport services.”
Investment in physical and social infrastructure will generate new jobs and investment, Ibec states.
Training facilities at the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) provide invaluable support to Irish life sciences companies. NIBRT is a world-class institute that provides training and research solutions for the bioprocessing industry.
BPCI’s ‘ Molecules Make a Difference’ report states 55,000 people are employed directly and indirectly across the sector.