Ireland is one of the leading locations for the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. For a country of just 4.5 million people, Ireland punches well above its weight and is undoubtedly a world player in pharmaceutical production.
The pharmaceutical industry in Ireland comprises a mix of international and local companies. Approximately 120 overseas companies have plants in Ireland including 9 of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
The pharmaceutical industry is relatively new to the Irish economy. Most of the companies operating in this area have only had a presence in Ireland since the 1960s. Originally the industry was largely involved in producing active ingredients in bulk for export to other countries to be processed into finished products (tablets, capsules etc.). Subsequently, plants were set up to produce the finished products here. In recent years a number of companies have also set up research centres and have become involved in joint research projects with Irish universities.
The pharmaceutical industry in Ireland is highly advanced, incorporating the latest technology, state of the art equipment and strict quality control procedures. Ireland’s pharmaceutical industry offers a wide range of products and services, from research and development for new medicines to the manufacturing and marketing of new medicines for humans and animals.
In 1973 as the country joined the then Common Market the sector employed less than 2,000 people and exports amounted to less than €100 million per annum. The sector now employs over 24,500 people directly with an equivalent number employed providing services to it.
Ireland is now the largest net exporter of pharmaceuticals in the EU accounting for over 50% of all exports from the country.
An important aspect in the development of the sector, which has helped to significantly boost its contribution to the Irish economy, has been the success of the sector in diversifying the nature of its investment in Ireland from the original bulk active plants to higher value activities. The maintenance of a culture of support for innovation is significant to the success of such a move up the value chain.