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Biopharma contributes over €73 billion to Irish exports

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Matt Moran

Director, BioPharmaChem Ireland

As global competition for foreign direct investment intensifies, it is vital that the Irish biopharma sector stays at the cutting edge of manufacturing technologies.

The biopharma sector now contributes over €73 billion to the exports of Ireland. It also employs over 30,000 people directly and at least the same amount indirectly.

All of the top ten biopharma companies in the world have operations in this country. The industry invests about €1.8 billion annually in process development R&D.

Leading way for manufacturing

The need for Ireland to sustain its leadership position in manufacturing was prioritised May 2019, by BioPharmaChem Ireland (BPCI) in their fifth strategy statement. BPCI is the association within Ibec that represents biopharma and chemical manufacturing in Ireland.

Companies can prioritise a range of techniques and practices that ensure that Irish sites continue to focus on best practice and retain competitive advantage in their manufacturing operations.

BPCI is committed to operational excellence and runs a very active specialist group in this field.

Biopharma can benefit from AI and VR

The industry needs to harness the potential of data – gathering and managing it for outcome-based measurement and personalised healthcare.

The sector needs to deal effectively with the amount of data that it generates. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be deployed to improve the reliability and efficiency of manufacturing.

Companies are considering virtual reality (VR) to support training activities. Such technologies would enable companies to train colleagues without risking potential damage to valuable equipment or jeopardising important product.

VR could also be used to simulate and test new manufacturing scenarios.

In time, one could even look at applying VR to process validation, presenting the opportunity to get products to market more quickly.

Robotics in manufacturing

Robotics are increasingly deployed in biopharma manufacturing applications.

Robots are useful for packing and filling lines in classified or clean areas, or if the product is potentially harmful to humans. A robot capable of sanitising clean rooms has been trialled.

A cobotics skillnet has been established in Ireland, with the primary aim of applying robotic and automation technology within manufacturing generally in this country.

Collaborating across industries to boost innovation

Novartis recently announced a collaboration with Microsoft in the area of artificial intelligence.

The Novartis AI Innovation Lab will strive to reimagine medicine, bolstering its capabilities from research through commercialisation. 

BPCI will partner with Innopharma in running best practice workshop in Biopharma 4.0 in Dublin in early December. This meeting will be addressed by one of the founders of Factory 4.0 – Henrik von Scheel.

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