Dispatches from NIBRT

Ireland aims to attract biomanufacturing with R&D grants

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Ireland's National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training is based at the UCD campus in Dublin. (Image: NIBRT)
Ireland's National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training is based at the UCD campus in Dublin. (Image: NIBRT)

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Ireland is trying to compete in biomanufacturing with powerhouses like Puerto Rico and Singapore thanks to government-financed innovation in process development.

Barry Heavey, Head of Life Sciences at Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA), said a combination of R&D grants to multinationals, and activity at state-financed biotech centre NIBRT, is drawing big pharma players to manufacture in the country.

At a meeting on Wednesday at NIBRT, the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, Heavey claimed Ireland’s competitiveness among biomanufacturers goes beyond just low corporate tax rates.

A series of IDA grants for R&D – usually spent on process development to support manufacturing – are bringing investment to the country, he told BioPharma-Reporter.com.

The agency supported Pfizer’s biologics process development at its facility in Cork, among many other grants.

Although Ireland has no home-grown pharma companies, it houses manufacturing facilities for Pfizer, Lilly, Mylan, MSD, Allergan, Bristol Myers Squibb and other drugmakers.

Encouraging these companies to have an Irish base has a knock-on effect of attracting foreign supplier companies and boosting indigenous ones, Heavey added.

As multinationals are investing in process R&D they might decide to work with a ‘scrappy’ innovative small company.​”

IDA’s R&D grants, and those from sister agency Enterprise Ireland, help “de-risk​” multinationals’ relationships with small subsuppliers of equipment and technology, he said.

That creates an opportunity for innovative subsuppliers to get into the Irish subsidiaries of multinationals.

A lot of subsuppliers believe they have to go to corporate HQ to get the newest technology adopted, but if the Irish site is doing R&D and improving their processes they might be the logical place to go to get their technology adopted.

If we give a grant Pfizer to do research and a subsupplier wants to make sure its tech is adopted by Pfizer, they will do innovative R&D in Ireland next to Pfizer.”

Companies like ProSys, an Irish manufacturer or sampling and containment equipment, have benefited indirectly from the grants by winning contracts with Pfizer, Healey said.


NIBRT also plays a big role in encouraging foreign investment, Heavey said. The institute takes in scientists from companies around the world – 3,300 so far – and trains them in biomanufacturing, including complex GMP surroundings.

Its clients include Pfizer, Lilly, MSD, Roche, and Janssen.

The NIBRT facility offers training in a real-world environment, on real equipment. This derisks the transition from trainee to employee,​” said Heavey.

The centre also allows companies to road-test new technology and validate subsystems, with a focus on QC testing and bio-characterisation.

EU policy now says if you want to stay competitive in manufacturing – you need to stay competitive in this environment.”

Heavey described NIBRT as creating “an ecosystem​” of pharma and vendor companies drawn to the area looking to partner on QC work:

It’s a playground for B2B research collaborations.​”

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