Investing, Innovating, Inspiring

Dec 15, 2005

Aerial view of Wyeth Biopharma campus in Ireland
During the last 10 years, Ireland has transformed itself. Once Europe's economic backwater, the country is now one of the strongest European economies. In the late 1980s, Irish per capita income was less than two-thirds that of the United Kingdom. But in the first half of the 1990s, the Irish economy experienced a growth rate of 5% per year, and during the second half, its yearly growth was nearly 10%. Today the per capita income in Ireland is more than 10% greater than that of the UK. Moreover, nine of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies have manufacturing operations in Ireland. The Irish government continues to work to make Ireland attractive both to investors and to intellectual talent, and to establish the country as a center for investment, innovation, and inspiration.


Through foreign direct investment since the 1960s, Ireland has grown a globally significant life sciences industry. Today Ireland has over 170 companies employing 35,000 people in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic sectors. Add to this mix a large-scale government investment in research and an increase in entrepreneurial and venture capital activity, and one can easily see why Ireland is developing as a world-class cluster in life sciences, and particularly in biotechnology.

Foreign Direct Investments

The global consulting firm AT Kearney published its Offshore Location Attractiveness Index in 2004. The index measured the viability of countries around the world as offshore destinations, based on financial structure; people and skills; and business environment. Ireland ranked fourth in the world for people and skills, and third for business environment. The regional picture is even brighter, as Ireland was ranked as the leading location in Europe in both of these categories.

The results of this index will be no surprise to many multinationals. Multi-facility companies such as Abbott Laboratories; Gilead Sciences, Centocor, Allergan, Boston Scientific Corporation; Essilor; Johnson & Johnson; and Wyeth Biopharma chose Ireland as the location from which to service their worldwide markets, with 25 separate Irish manufacturing facilities among these 7 companies alone.

In September 2005, an Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland proposal to establish the National Institute for Bioprocessing, Research and Training at a cost of €72 million was approved. This facility will provide critical research and training facilities for bioprocessing technologies, and will help demonstrate that Ireland is determined to be a leader in this industry. The facility will also provide assurance for overseas companies looking to invest in Ireland that the country will continue to have the skill base to support key biopharmaceutical research and product development.

Investing in Biotechnology Research and Infrastructure

Major research investment in biotech has taken place in recent years. Funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Health Research Board, and Enterprise Ireland means that a research ecosystem is being established with a strong base in the third level sector (universities and technology institutes). Several HEA and SFI projects are particularly noteworthy.

HEA Projects Nearly €300 million has been allocated to bioscience through the HEA's Program for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). Sixteen projects comprising national centers, institutes, networks, and research programs have been established. These include the Biosciences Research Institute, an interdisciplinary research center based at University College Cork; the Conway Institute of BioMolecular and Bio-medical Research at University College Dublin; and the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUI Galway).

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