Ireland is a global leader in life sciences with an ecosystem that competes for foreign direct investment from across the world, evidenced by the industry’s impressive client base. A talented workforce, superb education system and favourable tax incentives drive this success. Add great global connectivity and one sees how Irish life sciences yields such great results. Critically, Ireland also demonstrates a pattern of resilience. Between 2011 and 2016 several blockbuster drugs with tens of billions in global annual sales went off-patent. The Irish pharma industry responded quickly, boosted by a stream of significant new biopharma investments, allowing it to reposition and move up the value chain.
Covid-19 marked a disruptive period for most European countries. After several initial months of paralysis, the Irish life sciences sector appears unscathed by its severest impacts. Pharma companies changed focus and strategy to deal with the immediate challenges. In the year before the pandemic (2019), the Irish life sciences sector published 3,260 new scientific jobs. In 2020, recruitment levels fell by 9% year-on-year, dropping below 3,000 as the virus took its grip. However, the bounce back, when it came, demonstrated that vacancies recovered well in 2021, reaching a peak in March 2021. To date, 2021 has seen a total of 3,400+ vacancies, 14.9% up year-on- year and 4.5% more open roles than 2019 prior to the pandemic.
How will Ireland prepare for the journey ahead and for an ever-evolving life sciences presence? As the pace of R&D accelerates and new, more complex treatments emerge, Irish manufacturers must continue quickly to ensure success whilst also getting involved in the supply of new therapies and manufacturing platforms. Growing partnerships and ventures across industry, academia, non-for- profit, government organisations and regulatory bodies must also continue. New technology within plant and production is being rapidly adopted. Supply chain innovation, based on lessons learned throughout covid-19, is driving an already collaborative ecosystem. More agility within R&D innovation whilst building an embedded resilience will be key to continued success.
Addressing future workforce skills will attract continued FDI, something with which Irish pharma already has a strong track record. Ireland’s key position within global life sciences suggests that jobs in the sector will continue rising. In addition to presenting growth opportunities for companies operating in the sector, the pandemic also raised the profile of life sciences as a desirable employer among Irish students. A recent survey of 10,000 students showed big gains by pharma companies against tech giants in terms of attractiveness as an employer, with three entering the top 30 for the first time. Attracting and training talent will always be key to continued growth and excellence in the life sciences space.
Yvette Cleland - CEO | Cpl UK
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