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Innopharma Labs – Developing your Expertise for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Finbarr Sheehy
Innopharma Labs – Developing your Expertise for the Pharmaceutical Industry
by Finbarr Sheehy - Saturday, 23 July 2011, 10:23 PM

The pharmaceutical sector continues to be buoyant with Ireland with 8 out of 10 of the top worldwide companies having bases in Ireland. Through the retention of the 12.5% corporation tax rate, continued investment in education and innovation, pharmaceuticals companies will still find Ireland an attractive place to do business. Biotechnology and Medical Device continues to be major growth segments. Despite economic downturn, Ireland is still importing personnel to work in specialist roles in the pharmaceutical sector to fill the skills deficit. One training initiative run by Innopharma Labs aims to fill the employment gap by fostering the talents of those who previously worked in manufacturing, construction, engineering and science retraining and tailoring their skills towards integration in the pharmaceutical industry.

Ian Jones CEO, Innopharma Labs emphasizes ‘The pharmaceutical sector is still critical to our economy. We rely on it for over 50% of our exported goods. We can’t forget this. We need to support it maximally. We need to be lean in how we manufacture pharmaceutical products. This needs to be reflected in the people and the technologies introduced to the industry. Innopharma Labs aims to do this with our research and education partners. We love what we do and believe it benefits the Irish pharmaceutical sector’

This upskilling programme, which is affiliated with ITT Dublin, has won a bid under the new HEA Spingboard initiative to upskill the unemployed with engineering, science, construction and manufacturing backgrounds to fill these positions. The 5 month part-time course retrains participants to integrate into both operations and engineering environments within the biopharmaceutical industry. The programme is extremely practical involving face-to-face and online learning, combined with equipment touch time in a simulated manufacturing environment. Those completing the course will find themselves preened for positions in the product and process development; engineering, medical device, biopharma and process analytical areas for any of the international giants.

PharmaChemical Ireland Director, Matt Moran welcome the philosophy of better aligning the education and training provision with industry’s requirements, “structured collaboration between industry and academia is essential if Ireland is to expand the remit of its pharmachem base from pure manufacturing to manufacturing supported by world-class research and development - hence securing the long term future of the sector in Ireland.”

Innopharma were previously successful in the LMAF initiative 2010-2011 where they recruited and upskilled 100 unemployed persons in three cohorts. Cohort 1 who graduated in January of this year have over 80% back in employment, and over 30 % of cohorts 2 and 3 who are due to graduate in June 2011 have already been offered roles in companies. Hiring companies include the major Pharma & Medical Device companies such as Pfizer, Elan, Genzyme, Allergan, Warner Chilcott, MSD, Niche Generics, Creganna and Boston Scientific and The Irish Medicine Board.

According to Ian Jones, CEO Innopharma Labs, ‘We aligned with one or the leading ‘industry-focussed’ colleges (ITT Dublin) and coupled that with leading pharmaceutical industry educators to provide a tailor-made, focused programme capable of preparing participants for opportunities within the pharmaceutical sector’

‘This programme supports some of the key objectives outlined in the recently published IBEC paper on ‘Innovation and Excellence – Pharmachemical Ireland Strategic Plan with regards to developing a flexible and adaptable workforce coupled with being highly efficient and cost effective. As we speak there are nine major ongoing capital investments, totalling over €1.5 billion - at Centocor, Eli-Lilly, Glaxo-SmithKline, Gilead and Pfizer in Cork, at Genzyme and Servier in Waterford and at Merck Sharp and Dohme in Clonmel and Carlow. More significant is the fact that most of these investments are in Biotech or R&D - the cutting edge of the sector. This bodes very well for the long-term future of the industry in this country’ adds Matt Moran.

John Behan, Head of Science, ITT reports that ‘our collaboration with Innopharma Labs has yielded tremendous success through our 2010/2011 LMAF up-skilling initiative and we expect it to continue through the recently approved Springboard submission. The novel collaboration has great potential to up-skill participants from declining industries and provides a pool of recruitable personnel for high value niche roles within the stable pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.’

Case Studies:

Liam Burke, originally from Tipperary, is a Chemical Engineer who returned to Ireland from the UK over a year ago. Having worked for large internationals including Aughinish Alumina and Worley Parsons, he had always been keen to work in one of Ireland’s major growth sectors, the pharmaceutical sector, however, he knew there would be barriers to entry. Liam comments, “Having moved home from the UK, I found myself between jobs and decided to use the opportunity to get into an area I’ve always wanted to work in. By international standards, there is quite a conservative hiring culture in Ireland and not having a pharmaceutical background was going to be an issue. It’s great to finally see practical government programmes such as the Innopharma Lab’’s programme which help tailor professionals towards particular industries … this is where the future employment training needs to be at. The Innopharma Lab Upskilling programme has given me the pharmaceutical knowledge required. There is a good marriage between academic and business modules enabling me to get over industry barriers to a job.” Liam, who graduated from the Innopharma Labs programme in January 2011 is now working as a Project Engineer with GlaxoSmithKline.

Aisling Skelly is from Templeogue, Dublin. She had completed an Honours degree in Bioanalytical Science and was struggling to get the vital experience within the Pharmaceutical Sector. Having completed the Innopharma Programme she finally made the crucial step in January by securing a contract in Rottampharm, Dublin. “Starting a 6 month placement in the micro lab at Rottampharm! I finally have my foot in the door! Thanks to all involved in the Innopharma Upskilling Programme for all their help with upksilling modules, CVs preparation and interview skills etc” reports Aisling.

Gerry O’Dowd lives in Dundalk where he has worked in various production and R&D for the food manufacturing giant – HJ Heinz - for close on 20 years. In October 2009 he was made redundant and has been proactively looking for position since with little joy. Gerry comments, “The food industry is a very competitive industry and with little recruitment activity happening across the sector at the moment I’ve decided to look at jumping sectors. The Innopharmalab programme has enhanced my skill base and primed me for the pharmaceutical business and actively seeking employment in Ireland. While the programme is academic modules, it gives you a very strong understanding of the business allowing you to cross transfer your skills and tailor your experience.” Gerry was successful in securing a role as Team Leader Manager with Diageo.