Head of Life Sciences, Engineering & Industrial Tech at IDA Ireland
Over the last number of years, Ireland has made its mark as a thriving research environment, one with a unique combination of large-scale strategic and technical manufacturing.
We’ve seen a very strong resurgence in the Life Sciences sector, primarily driven by new drug approvals in the pharmaceutical industry. Many of those new drugs will be manufactured in Ireland, and that has led to increased investment and, additionally, thousands of new jobs.
A lot of the new growth has been in biologic drugs or biopharmaceuticals, which are difficult to manufacture.
There has been a shortage in capacity for manufacturing new, complex drugs globally, but Ireland has won a lot of new investment to support manufacturing capacity for them. In terms of attracting foreign direct investment in advanced manufacture in the Life Sciences, Ireland are probably number one globally – we’ve won close to €5 billion in the last five years of new investment. We have a very strong track record in advanced manufacturing and getting large projects up and running in a timely and cost-effective way.
Finding people with the right skills to support large investments is a number one challenge the industry faces globally and Ireland certainly isn’t immune to that. We need to grow our skills base, and get more people excited about the Life Sciences and the career prospects it holds. We invested €70 million in creating a dedicated training centre for the industry called NIBRT (National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training) in collaboration with many universities around the country which has been a success. Equally, SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) funded SSPC (The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre), to support the small-molecule industry, focused on the development and manufacture of chemical-based drugs.
We need to ensure the pipeline of graduates coming from college really understand what the challenges are in industries now and in the next few years. We see the potential for not only industry-academic collaboration, but also business-to-business collaboration. There are many companies who have similar challenges in the manufacturing process and are considering similar investments, while other companies are developing solutions and may have solutions for others.
Ireland are probably number one globally – we’ve won close to €5 billion in the last five years of new investment.
In the next few years, we’re going to potentially see a big growth in next-generation drugs and therapies, such as cells therapy – using cells to treat diseases like cancer especially – and gene therapy also to treat diseases previously proved difficult to treat, along with combinations of both. So, we’re watching the next generation therapy space very closely. The other area of real opportunity is in convergence – the convergence of the biopharmaceutical industry with the medical device industry in areas like advanced drug delivery, and also convergence with the tech sector – in order to provide better outcomes for patients. Given Ireland has strength in all these areas – biotech, med-tech and tech – we could really make it in that space.