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Ireland’s Biopharma industry is strong, but what about Brexit?

Biopharma Ambition conference Ireland 2018

Last February delegates from the biopharma industry convened in Dublin for the Biopharma Ambition conference 2018. As an industry, biopharma makes up 55 percent of Ireland’s exports and was worth €67.8 billion in 2017. Ireland is home to the top 10 biopharma companies in the world, making it the sixth largest country for medicinal and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Regardless of these impressive statistics, the President of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and Country Chair & General Manager of General Medicines at Sanofi Ireland, Mary Dickens warned delegates of the potential threats to the industry. She stated, “The wider environment is not without challenge,” stressing the susceptibility of Irish biopharma to a “hard Brexit,” as well as to the recent tax cuts in the US created by the Trump administration.

The Brexit Effect

John Whelan, consultant on Irish and international trade, highlighted that some pharma manufacturers will think it’s vital to shift operations from Ireland to the UK. He bases this observation on the €4.8 billion of pharmaceuticals that Ireland exports to the UK. Contrastingly, Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, has said that he’s seen a huge interest from companies looking to invest in Ireland due to potential regulatory challenges created by Brexit.

  • Can new investment make up the difference caused by the reduced access to the UK market?
  • Have changes to the international tax environment made Ireland less attractive for Biopharma companies?

Head of Biopharmaceuticals at the IDA, Tommy Fanning believes that new investment can make the difference. Fanning commented, “Brexit can yield opportunities for Irish life sciences… We’re already seeing some sub-supply services companies beginning to look at Ireland.”

With regards to US tax cuts, Fanning has mixed feelings. “Although the big companies in the US are saying they’re going to invest their extra cash in the US, they’ll also invest some of that cash in their international operations. So, I think there’s two sides to that picture,” Tommy Fanning.

Fanning believes that Ireland has much more to offer than a favourable corporate tax rate. He focuses on the country’s education system and regulatory environment as two major factors. He added that “unless you have the infrastructure, the skills, and the regulatory environment, no company will come.”

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