General Electric has announced plans for a new biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Co Cork.
The firm says its €150m investment in the GE BioPark Cork site will create 500 jobs by the time the facility is up and running.
The construction phase, subject to planning approval, is expected to begin by mid- 2017 and create up to 800 construction jobs.
The campus, located on IDA Ireland land at Loughbeg, Ringaskiddy, will consist of four prefabricated drug factories owned and run by GE customers. It will be Europe’s first prefabricated, off-the-shelf bio-manufacturing facility, called a 'KuBio BioPark' (see video below).]
GE says its off-the-shelf modules are 25% to 50% cheaper than the traditional plants needed for making complex biological medicines. They can also be constructed in just 18 months rather than the typical three years.
The new jobs are expected to include 400 with biopharma companies located on the KuBio campus, and a further 100 employed directly by GE.
The announcement marks the first time GE's prefabricated drug factory model is brought to Ireland, having first been trialled in China.
GE first established a presence in Ireland over three decades ago and now employs some 2,200 people across 19 businesses located throughout the country. Between them, GE businesses serve 200,000 customers worldwide from Ireland.
"The choice of Ireland, and especially Ringaskiddy, for this important investment by GE is a significant win for industry in the Cork region and an endorsement of Cork as the leading location for such investment," said Mayor of Co Cork, Cllr. Seamus McGrath.
GE is also in the process of setting up a training collaboration with Dublin's National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) to develop skills for Ireland’s biologics sector, training 1,500 professionals per year.
GE says its KUBio facilities enable pharmaceutical companies to quickly deploy new biologics manufacturing capacity and bring medicines to market faster.
Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said more than 28,000 people currently work in biopharma in Ireland, and 6,000 of those work in biologics.
She said: "This subsector is expected to double in the coming years and will provide both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry and training providers to collaborate on promoting the range of career opportunities available."