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A rapidly growing sector set to provide ample employment opportunities

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Matt Moran

Director, BioPharmaChem Ireland

The Biopharmachem sector shows no sign of slowing down. Recent investments – totalling some €10 billion in the last 10 years – are now starting to come into operation. Much of this investment has been in cutting edge biotech manufacture with industry leaders adding significant investments to their ever-growing portfolios.


It is no surprise that Ireland now has 10 out of the top 10 global biopharma players here. Ireland is considered only second to the USA as a hub for biotech manufacture.

There are a number of reasons for this impressive growth trajectory, which sees the sector valued at over €65 billion in exports – that’s over half the goods exported from Ireland. These include:

  • Competitive rates of taxation
  • Strong record of regulatory compliance
  • Location within the European Union
  • Strong research base
  • Excellent pool of talented and experienced people

It is worth considering the importance of Ireland’s talent pool. A highly regulated sector such as biopharma depends very much on having the right level of employee in terms of qualification, aptitude and experience. There is no doubt that Ireland continues to come up trumps in all these areas.

We must continue to invest in talent

However, in the mind of BioPharmaChem Ireland (BPCI) and its members, we can never lose sight of the need to continually invest in our talent pool. The BPCI Talent and Skills Group continues to champion this, working closely with the IDA, Skillnets and organisations such as NIBRT and Innopharma to ensure that the pipeline remains well fed.

In 2016, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs conducted a comprehensive review for the sector, concluding that an additional 8,400 job opportunities would be created in biopharma by 2020. We are well on the way to meeting this. The sector currently employs well over 30,000 and this number is set to grow.

BPCI continues to work with the educational community to ensure enough graduates take up the study of STEM subjects.

Encouraging apprenticeships in biopharma

They have also championed the brand new, Laboratory Apprenticeship Programme, designed to encourage school leavers and mature students to consider a non-traditional apprenticeship within the sector, allowing them to ‘earn as they learn’. The programme was launched in partnership with Tallaght Institute of Technology, supported by The Higher Educational Authority (HEA) and Solas last year. It opens up a vocational route into the sector, reflecting the German and Swiss models. In the view of BPCI, this will help greatly by expanding the existing talent pool.

BPCI also promotes the BioPharmaChem Skillnet, which supports ongoing training and skill development within the sector, allowing companies to refine and develop their existing skills bases.

There is no doubt that, as the sector continues to become more sophisticated – employing digitisation etc – opportunities will open up for entire new skill sets, such as information technology and software development. This will also offer excellent opportunities for local specialist service providers.

Local company, APC, is a great example of this. Based in Cherrywood, Dublin, APC provides contract development and manufacturing support to the sector. It has developed a particular expertise in continuous manufacturing – both small and large molecule – truly cutting-edge technology.

It is important not to ignore the contribution that Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) makes though its support for its centres. Centres such as The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), Curam and The Alimentary Probiotic Centre (APC). These novel organisations bring industry together with the third level research community to help promote research in the sector. Of course, they also help to develop the kind of expertise required to drive the sector on to the next level.

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