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5 Things That Make Ireland a Leading Life Science Hub

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 7 Feb 2024

Ireland as a Leading Life Science HubWith over 90 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country, including 19 of the world’s top 20 biopharma companies, Ireland is globally recognised as a major player in the life science industry. More than 84,000 highly skilled professionals are directly and indirectly employed in the country’s biopharma sector, working for many of the industry’s leading names such as Novartis, AbbVie, Pfizer, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca who all have operations in Ireland.

In this article, we take a closer look at Ireland’s pharmaceutical and life science industry, highlighting the key things that make the country so successful as a leading, global life science hub.

Strong Infrastructure and Business-Friendly Climate

Ireland’s business-friendly climate creates an environment where businesses and investors feel secure. The country is known for its favourable corporate tax rate, which attracts multinational companies to establish their operations in Ireland. Additionally, the country offers various incentives and support programs for businesses, including research and development tax credits and grants. Agencies and initiatives such as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland also offer assistance and expertise to help companies navigate the Irish business landscape, access funding, and develop networks.

In 2023, Ireland was ranked as the third freest economy, highlighting the country’s commitment to economic freedom and business-friendly policies. This ranking reflects the ease of doing business, the protection of property rights, low levels of corruption, and efficient regulations. The government’s focus on maintaining economic freedom and supporting a favourable business environment creates sustainability and attracts investments in various sectors, including the life sciences.

Strong Compliance Record with Regulatory Agencies

Ireland’s strong compliance record with regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and EMA, contributes to making the country an excellent life sciences hub. The collaboration and close working relationship between these regulatory agencies and Ireland’s HPRA ensure a seamless compliance process for pharmaceutical companies operating in the country. This alignment allows for efficient exchange of information, guidance, and inspections, resulting in trouble-free compliance and adherence to regulatory standards.

The country maintains stringent regulatory measures and has established a robust framework to ensure compliance with international standards. Irish companies prioritise compliance and invest in quality systems, employee training, and continuous improvement to maintain a high standard of compliance, fostering an environment of trust and reliability, and instilling confidence in global partners and customers.

Excellent Opportunities for Collaboration

Ireland’s thriving life sciences ecosystem facilitates connections between different players in the industry, including large multinational companies and smaller domestic enterprises. This network of companies provides an environment where collaborations can easily take place, offering valuable opportunities for knowledge exchange, resource sharing, and joint research and development efforts.

In addition to collaborating with domestic companies, multinationals in Ireland have access to a network of life sciences sub-supply providers. These providers specialise in supplying critical components, materials, and services required by the industry, creating a supportive ecosystem that enhances collaboration potential.

Global Connectivity

Geographically, Ireland is an excellent location for life science operations due to its proximity and ease of movement to other EU countries, as well as its connections to the US, Asia, and non-EU markets. Ireland’s location on the western edge of Europe provides convenient access to the EU market, which has a population of over 500 million people. The country’s well-developed transportation infrastructure, including extensive air and sea connections, enables efficient movement of goods and personnel to and from other EU countries. This allows life science companies in the country to easily access and serve the European market, tapping into a large customer base and utilising the harmonised regulatory framework within the EU.

Ireland’s connectivity to the US is also a significant advantage for life science operations. With numerous direct flights to major US cities, Ireland serves as a gateway for companies looking to expand their reach into the American market. The transatlantic connections facilitate business collaboration, trade, and the transfer of technology and expertise between Ireland and the US, enabling life science companies to access investment, forge partnerships, and tap into a vast customer base.

Additionally, Ireland’s location positions it favourably for connections to Asian markets. Direct flights from Ireland to major Asian hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai provide convenient access to key Asian markets.

Access to Highly Skilled Talent

One of the key advantages that the life science industry in Ireland enjoys is the abundance of skilled talent in existing pharma sites who have extensive experience in quality assurance, quality control, product development, science, and engineering. This thriving talent pool allows companies in Ireland to swiftly meet their staffing requirements, allowing them to concentrate on their core business. Moreover, Ireland’s membership in the European Union provides the industry with unrestricted access to a vast labour pool of over 240 million people, further expanding the talent pool that the country can draw from.

The strong links that exist between universities and the life science industry are another crucial factor in Ireland's success in the industry. The partnerships and collaborations between industry and academia ensure that graduates possess the relevant skills and knowledge required to meet the specific needs of the sector. This has helped to create a steady stream of local talent that is aligned with the industry's needs, ensuring that companies can rely on a well-trained workforce.

Ireland's government recognizes the importance of attracting international talent and has put in place policies to simplify immigration requirements for skilled international labour. This fast-tracked support for employment permits ensures that companies can easily access the global talent pool, attracting qualified professionals from around the world.

The Irish government's commitment to the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry has been evident for over fifty years. To ensure that the country's talent pool continues to meet the needs of the sector, the government has established various training and apprenticeship programs, such as the National Institute for Biological Research and Training. This program offers specialised training for the biologics industry and currently trains approximately 5,000 individuals each year, meeting the growing demands of the sector.

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