Sec­tor with unique track record

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - LIFE SCIENCES - Joe Der­mody

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

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