Sector with unique track record
Life science companies clustered in Cork Harbour did not land there by accident, but have a lineage that dates back to the arrival of Pfizer in 1969.
Ireland has 13 of the world’s top 15 med- tech companies, directly employing 60,000 people. Pharma and med-tech were responsible for €64bn in exports in 2015.
This is Ireland’s second largest employment sector, only marginally behind technology companies. IDA figures show that the 35 pharma and med-tech companies in Cork city and county alone employ 13,611 people; tech firms employ 13,972 people in the southern capital.
“Cork has a great footprint in biologics,” said Ray O’Connor, IDA South-West regional manager. “MSD recently announced an expansion. GE is investing € 150m in its new Biopark. The south-west region has a strong track record of winning investment.
“The region has a strong story to tell, but investment isn’t something to be picked off a shelf; we constantly need to put our best foot forward.
“At present, there is an issue with site access and road infrastructure, and we always have to be conscious of the risk of losing high-value manufacturing jobs. We have a fantastic skills base, but we need everything else to be right too.”
The success of the sector in the south-west is underpinned by strong training structures. Companies in the region get to choose from a stream of third level graduates with relevant skills, along with graduates from National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training ( NIBRT). UCC, CIT and other colleges are also delivering courses targeting the 8,000 new roles this sector is expected to create by 2020.
Mr O’Connor said the IDA welcomed the fact that Transport Infrastructure Ireland has plans to develop new routes. He said that the M28 Cork- Ringaskiddy road would go through a rigorous planning process, and he’ll await the outcome of an eventual oral hearing.
“The greater Cork area needs a number of road improvements. In the case of Ringaskiddy, we spent many years working with industry to develop key sites in this area. The IDA would welcome the N28 being upgraded, which has been promised for the past 20 years.
“There are few places in the world that you would find so many world class healthcare companies gathered in such a strong cluster. From an IDA perspective, we have worked with county councils since the 1970s to develop strategic lands for this industry.
“With the GE Healthcare Biopark on the horizon, the sector will really need world class infrastructure. The M28 works will be critically important for the Cork area. The works are also needed to free up the city. With the Port of Cork moving to Ringaskiddy, key city areas including Tivoli would be freed up of traffic jams.”
Over the years, the IDA has acquired hundreds of acres in Cork Harbour, earmarked for further development. Bought on behalf of the taxpayer, these lands are seen as part of a plan of a long term strategy for life sciences companies and other aligned sectors.
A computer-generated image of the new Dunkettle Interchange.
An impression of how the planned upgraded railway station at Dunkettle, Co Cork.
Regional manager IDA South-West Ray O’Connor