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Northern Ireland life sciences sector continues strong economic output

The life sciences sector is worth £2.4 billion to the Northern Ireland economy, according to a new report looking at the value of the pharmaceutical and research industry to the country.

The Northern Ireland economy has undergone significant change over the past two years but despite those challenges the life sciences sector remains one of our most valuable assets. Marion Laverty, Public Affairs Manager for ABPI Northern Ireland

The report from the Fraser of Allander Institute, commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), shows how life and health sciences can play an important role in Northern Ireland's economic recovery from COVID-19 and support the country's innovation ecosystem, while driving longer-term economic growth.

The data shows that life science firms support 19,500 jobs throughout Northern Ireland, and that for every 1 new job created in the sector, 1.8 jobs are generated elsewhere in the NI economy. This impact is even greater in pharmaceuticals manufacturing where every new job creates another 3 including in the wider supply chain.

Boosting investment in life sciences and building Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base will have a direct impact on exports and industrial output – supporting jobs across the country and the health of the economy.

The life sciences sector generates £2.4 billion of industrial output and supports more than 15,000 additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Over the past decade, pharmaceuticals have been one of the top 10 most traded items globally. In 2020, pharmaceuticals were the 3rd most exported product in Northern Ireland, with £500 million worth of exports.

Marion Laverty, Public Affairs Manager for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Northern Ireland, said:

“The Northern Ireland economy has undergone significant change over the past two years but despite those challenges the life sciences sector remains one of our most valuable assets.

“There is enormous potential for growth. We need to be embracing innovation and growing our ability to scale up successful pilot projects.

“We also need to encourage more research, champion sustainability initiatives, develop strategies to attract and retain the skills needed for health and life sciences, and at the centre of this, we need a joined-up health and prosperity agenda built on commitment and partnership.”

The report authors point to examples of life science companies in Northern Ireland successfully attracting further investment as evidence of the strength and potential for the sector.

They include HydRegen, a company that is pioneering sustainable chemical manufacturing which has received £385,000 in new funding from the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund alongside private investors, to work in with other life science companies in Northern Ireland to help reduce their costs and environmental impact.

Pharma manufacturing ranks 66th out of 131 sectors in the UK economy for environment impact and greenhouse gas emissions.

Another is Bristol Myers Squibb, a global pharmaceutical company that has invested in Northern Ireland and is providing direct support to 14 clinical research programmes across the country. In 2021, the company invested a further £10 million to deliver 10,000 shipments of investigational drugs for clinical trials around the world.

ENTHUSE Partnerships are a two-year collaboration between STEM Learning, a funder and 6-10 schools or colleges which is targeting the pupils in the greatest need of our support, working with their teachers to increase attainment and raise aspirations for STEM careers.

Jonathan Hobson, Lead for the ENTHUSE Partnerships, said:

“This report shows that skills are vital to building Northern Ireland’s thriving life sciences sector and why we need to do more. Helping post-primary educators understand the STEM opportunities available is already helping to make these jobs more accessible.

“We’re keen to see a greater focus on helping to develop the skills that will make the lives of young people better and support a growing industry that offers a good long-term career.”

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The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.