Forfás: Ireland should exploit biotech opportunity

2 Sep 2003

Ireland has the skills base to exploit opportunities in the European biotechnology products market, which could be worth €100bn by 2005, a new study from Forfás claims.

A study compiled by Peter Bacon & Associates entitled ‘The Supply and Demand for Skills in the Biotechnology Sector, was commissioned by Forfás to identify the potential growth rate of the sector and quantify the skills that would be required to capitalise on this growth over the years 2004 to 2010.

The report claims that Ireland’s competitive corporate tax regime, the large pharmaceutical, chemical and medical device base in the country, a pool of skills in pharmaceutical processing and engineering as well as quality control and regulatory affairs, as well as the large investment in basic biotech research under Science Foundation Ireland, all augur well for Ireland’s chances.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the chairman of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs Dr Danny O’Hare said: “The European Commission has estimated that the market for biotechnology products in Europe alone could be worth €100bn by 2005.

“Biotechnology is an emerging technology, which has the potential to impact on many facets of our lives in the near future and will provide substantial opportunities for those countries that are proactive in promoting the sector.

“Due to its high added-value and its reliance on intellectual capital, biotechnology is widely expected to become a keystone of the knowledge economy,” said Dr. O’Hare.

The report’s author Dr Peter Bacon said: “Ireland must increase the supply of science-related skills in the economy if the biotechnology sector is to realise its full potential over the next 7 years.

“Other enabling measures are also required, namely a vibrant research community, a culture of collaboration between academia and business and an appropriate financial framework to support this collaboration. The report makes a number of recommendations on how this can be achieved. This is a realistic objective, but will require a concerted effort on the part of all stakeholders, namely, government, development agencies, educational institutions and business,” Dr Bacon said.

Among the recommendations made were increased funding for science and biotechnology programmes at higher level, promoting the diverse and rewarding career path that careers in science offer and increasing recruitment of students from abroad to counter areas of under-supply.

The report highlighted the major fall-off in the uptake of science subjects at secondary school and called for a speedy implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on the Physical Sciences to achieve greater participation in science and engineering.

By John Kennedy