Global Opportunities

The Pharmaceutical Sector in Ireland: Opportunities for Swiss companies

As cornerstones of the Irish economy, the pharma and life sciences sectors have contributed vastly to the attractiveness of Ireland to foreign companies. In present times of change, the country remains one of the largest exporters of pharmaceuticals in Europe, keen to position itself as a global innovation leader. This aim, combined with challenges brought upon by the Covid-19 crisis, opens ups key opportunities for Swiss companies with innovative products or solutions.


The pharmaceutical sector plays an important part in the Irish economy contributing to 20% of the national GDP. As one of Europe’s biggest pharma exporters it’s no surprise that major global pharma and biotech companies have operations in the country. Employment in the sector has doubled in the last 12 years, allowing an influx of talent, particularly with manufacturing capabilities (see table 1).

Ireland profits from a low corporate tax (12.5%) and an honorable compliance record with regulatory agencies (e.g. FDA, HPRA, EMA). These work in in accordance with European and global standard procedures facilitating the process for international companies. Close collaboration between agency and businesses allows for trouble-free compliance, safety and security.

Ireland also benefits from a vast talent pool directly linked to the capabilities of its universities in the fields of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Engineering. Skilled workers congregate in clusters like Dublin and Cork, but are spreading out to developing hotspots such as Limerick, Galway, Sligo, and Waterford.

Despite the challenges brought by the Covid-19 crisis, which will see a reduction of this workforce, pharma will continue to remain a key contributor to the Irish economy. This prediction derives from an analysis of the 2008 recession, where Ireland witnessed a decrease in workforce and exports, but also made a fast and strong recovery (see table 2).

Innovation 2020

Innovation 2020 is the Government’s policy for research and development, science and technology, aiming to position the country as a global innovation leader. Amongst its initiatives are:

-    Supporting research across all disciplines
-    Increasing public and private investment in R&D
-    Enhancing the impact of research and innovation
-    Ensuring that education drives innovation
-    Promoting collaboration between public and private bodies

The ultimate goal of the project is to create a comprehensive and collaborative ecosystem that acts as magnet and stimulant for talent and industry, responsive to emerging opportunities.

Despite the interruption that Covid-19 is causing, Ireland is still committed to achieving the objectives of Innovation 2020. This opens up opportunities for foreign companies and their innovative solutions.

Opportunities for Swiss companies

Pharma companies in Ireland are very advanced technologically and known for their world-class manufacturing sites. With €10billion invested in new pharmaceutical production facilities in the last decade, manufacturing is set out to grow. Innovations fostering the efficiency of manufacturing sites are thus well positioned to succeed in Ireland.

In the long run Ireland aims to be recognized as the centre for excellence for development and innovation in the fields of biopharma, chemical manufacture and supply. Furthermore, the country aims to be the location of choice for launching new products. These goals call for innovative collaborations and underline the country’s intent to further attract international investment, which will in turn allow for a cross fertilisation of skills between tech and life sciences.
Switzerland profits from a state-of-the-art successful relationship between industry, academia, and research, cross-collaborating and profiting from great knowledge sharing, development and innovation. This trait and cooperative mentality can certainly be of interest in Ireland, particularly because the collaborative approach is a key initiative outlined by Innovation 2020.

As the medical technology and life sciences sectors converge, Ireland is also adapting to changing demands for medicine. There are thus opportunities for companies that specialize in precision medicine, digital solutions and connected healthcare, facilitating the healthcare journey from laboratory to patient. This extends the fields of opportunity far beyond pharma, and speaks to technology providers that offer solutions in automation and robotics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, cyber physical systems, and predictive analytics.

Next Steps

If you wish to find out more about the Irish market and see how you can get involved contact the Swiss Business Hub United Kingdom + Ireland

The Swiss Business Hub UK + Ireland provides localized support, market information, consulting and networking services to Swiss companies venturing into the UK or Irish market. An experienced team stands ready to support inquiries of all kind and serves as a first-hand local contact for companies - new and experienced – that wish to embark on the internationalization journey. Its wide network of contacts and its strategic position between industry and Government makes the SBH UK + I an ideal partner for international expansion.

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