Much has been written about the Irish success story: the Celtic Tiger, the Irish Miracle; the names and metaphors evolve as the country’s prosperity increases. Ireland certainly continues to be a vanguard of industrial development. Earlier this year, The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. ranked Ireland, out of 161 countries surveyed, third on its Index for Economic Freedom and first in Europe. This follows the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2005 placing Ireland first out of 111 countries for their Quality of Life Index. In 2004, Ireland led the Harvard Business Online Global Creative-Class Index and also that year, AT Kearney’s Offshore Location Attractiveness Index ranked Ireland fourth in the world for people and skills, and third for business environment.
Through foreign direct investment since the 1960s, Ireland has grown a globally significant life sciences industry. Today, over 170 companies in Ireland are employing 35,000 people in this field. Together this generated over US$52 billion in exports in 2005. Nine of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies have significant operations in Ireland. IDA Ireland, the government’s agency responsible for attracting foreign direct investment to the country, continues to direct the international development of this industry in Ireland; its performance being driven by operational excellence, strong infrastructure, government financial incentives and free access to the large European Union market of 450 million people.
Government investment in the life science and information technology industries has been one of the main forces behind this success. As these industries have developed, so too has Ireland’s offering, with the country continually reviewing and addressing the emerging trends, thus ensuring a successful ongoing relationship with the overseas and indigenous companies that have been the anchor of Ireland’s accomplishments.
In November of 2005, IDA Ireland obtained approval from the government to establish a National Bioprocessing Research, Education, Training and Service facility (NIBRT). This followed wide consultation in the US and Europe with businesses and academia in the biotechnology field, where it is accepted that bio-pharma globally is restricted by skills shortages and bioprocessing technology challenges. Taking into account the key educational and industrial issues identified, the facility, with a capital investment of more than $80 million, will provide – in conjunction with academic institutions – a substantial output of people with high level best practice skills across the spectrum of bioprocessing activities, applicable in a real-time scale-up environment. Additionally, it will undertake academic/industry collaborative research with an emphasis on advancing knowledge in bioprocessing technologies and techniques, the technical problems of scale-up and related issues.
The bio sphere
One of the most interesting developments in recent months is the pre-approval of a BioPharma campus in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. This is a fully permitted BioPharma campus with unparalleled flexibility. The campus is a 67 acre construction-ready site. The site includes planning permission for water purification buildings, waste water treatment facilities, a laboratory, fermentation, purification and fill finish buildings, along with all other ingredients necessary to implement a fully operational BioPharma campus. The flexibility of the planning permission allows for any combination of buildings to be erected and significantly removes risks to a project. With a high quality manufacturing environment, supported by a university city, and the ability to avail of low corporation tax, this option proves exceptionally enticing for new strategic business investment.
Foreign direct investment in Ireland has been attracted by a number of factors. Today, Ireland has one of the world’s lowest rates of corporation tax with the maximum rate for trading profits being 12.5 percent. Economic incentives for intellectual property (IP) which is developed and licensed from the country include a patent royalty exemption, stamp duty exemption, and a research and development tax credit. Other factors that help attract bio-pharmaceutical companies to Ireland include the ready availability of the required specialist skills. Output from the third level institutions is being continually refined to meet the sector’s needs. Further, the considerable growth in the Irish economy over the last 10 years has seen very significant repatriation of skilled people. In addition, Ireland is seen as a desirable expatriate location with a minimum of bureaucratic obstacles and an excellent educational system that facilitates family relocation. The free movement of labor within the enlarged European Union has facilitated the swift acquisition of a further pool of skilled people.
Through IDA Ireland, the country has secured in excess of US$5 billion of investment for projects in areas that include BioPharma (Amgen, Centocor, Pfizer), new business models (Kellogg, Gilead and Merck) and in R&D (GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genzyme and Olympus). Ireland is focused on building a pharma-biopharma cluster, and has moved from a predominantly manufacturing dominance to a more integrated sector attracting activities across the value chain.
Industry leaders such as Pfizer, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Genzyme, Boston Scientific and Abbott each have substantial operations in Ireland. Their satisfaction with the country has resulted in several examples of multiple investments including Abbott with six operations and Johnson & Johnson, Wyeth and Boston Scientific each having four. Pfizer, in addition to operating six manufacturing sites, also runs a corporate bank and European financial shared services from Ireland.
Significant biomanufacturing is taking place throughout Ireland in companies such as Allergan, Schering Plough and Genzyme. There is strong indigenous activity also with the formation of a number of Irish companies including Biotrin, Archport, Trinity Biotech and EiRx. Elan Corporation has recently established a sterile biopharmaceuticals plant and Trinity Biotech, which also operates manufacturing plants in the US and Europe, recently expanded into Africa and Asia. The company develops test kits for the detection of infectious diseases, blood coagulation disorders and sexually transmitted diseases. The company holds almost one third of the HIV testing market in Africa. Amgen announced earlier this year that it will be investing over US$1 billion to build process development, bulk manufacturing and fill and finish facilities in the south of Ireland. Wyeth, at a cost of US$2 billion, has built the world’s largest biotechnology manufacturing and development plant just outside of Dublin city. Wyeth has also established a biotherapeutic drug discovery research facility on University College Dublin’s campus that will comprise top class research scientists focusing on product discovery, pre-clinical research and drug discovery technology development. This type of investment reinforces the caliber of Ireland’s abilities in the field of leading-edge Research and Development within the international pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical community.
Additional biotechnology centers that have been established over the past five years in Ireland include the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Cork, The Biomedical Diagnostics Institute in Dublin and the Regenerative Medicine Institute in Galway. Each of these centers collaborates closely with the strong life science industry presence in their area, including with Medtronic, Proctor & Gamble and Becton Dickenson.
The biopharmaceutical industry, while still in its infancy globally, is entering a phase of rapid expansion. With two-thirds of the drugs currently in the development pipeline of the pharmaceutical sector internationally having a biopharmaceutical base, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are continuously working to increase R&D investment in this sector. In fact, the Irish government is spending US$1.3 billion on bioscience.
With the depth of company and academic activity currently taking place, the involvement by Irish hospitals in clinical research, and the proactive Government support, a significant industry cluster and vibrant networked professional community has emerged. Ireland has become a key participant in the development of the global biotechnology industry.
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