In­fra­struc­ture key to sus­tain­ing in­dus­try

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - LIFE SCIENCES - Matt Mo­ran BIOPHARMACHEM IRE­LAND (BPCI)

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...

BPCI’s ‘ Mol­e­cules Make a Dif­fer­ence’ re­port states 55,000 people are em­ployed di­rectly and in­di­rectly across the sec­tor.

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