Ireland: Location and Exports Contribute to Flourishing Life Sciences Industry


Ireland is one of the leading locations for the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, and the country offers a wide range of products and services – from the research and development of new medicines to the manufacture and marketing of these medicines for human and animal consumption.

The industry is comprised of a mix of international and local companies. Approximately 120 overseas companies have plants located in Ireland, including 9 of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The life sciences sector as a whole employs 45,000 individuals, 24,000 directly. This is a vast increase from the 1970s in which the sector employed less than 2,000 individuals.

Additionally, Ireland has significantly increased its revenue from exports in the life sciences sector. Exports amounted to less than €100 million per annum in 1973, but in 2011 were worth more than €55.1 billion, accounting for over 50 percent of all exports from the country. One reason for this increase is that though Ireland is small compared to other major European life science players (including France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and Switzerland), it is an attractive location for manufacturing, R&D, and operations due to its skilled but comparatively inexpensive workforce.

Ireland also boasts its own biotechnology companies, including Shire plc, which is one of Europe’s most successful biotech companies. The country also has strong sectors in veterinary and agricultural biotechnology. Additionally, due to Ireland’s strong investment in the ICT industry, many world ICT providers, including Google, Apple, and Qualcomm, who have been moving into healthcare services, point to Ireland as a good location for opportunities surrounding healthcare, health delivery, and digital healthcare services which is supporting a growing multi-billion dollar industry.

To stay competitive, Ireland is going to need to keep their education and job training efforts in line with their ability to attract businesses to their shores. Between 2011 and 2012, overall employment in scientific occupations in the country declined by 5.9 percent. This exceeded the national average rate of a decline of just 0.6 percent. Over 1,000 job losses were recorded reflecting a decline for chemical, biological, and physical scientists. As ICT continues to converge with the life sciences sector, individuals may need retraining on technological as well as scientific abilities.