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Archive for May, 2008

Pfizer to move ‘up the value chain’

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Sunday Business Post – Cork 2008 Supplement – May 25 2008

Pfizer’s €190 million facility will create a multitude of jobs as well as improving the quality of work done by the firm in Cork, writes Dermot Corrigan

The world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, is investing €190 million in a new biologics facility in Cork. The Shanbally plant is expected to create approximately 100 high skilled jobs over three years.

It will be used for manufacturing and research base and will be located on a 30 acre site adjacent to Pfizer’s existing facility in Ringaskiddy. Work has already begun on the site, which is expected to be fully commissioned by the end of next year.

Paul Duffy, vice president of patent protected products operations with Pfizer, said the new plant would move the company’s Cork based activities “up the value chain”.

“The new facility is a different type of manufacturing than what we are currently doing in Cork,” he said. “It is moving up the value chain of activity. The work will be in the early development phase – the clinical study phase – working very closely with research.”

“We are manufacturing products, but it is not your routine manufacturing activity. It is more of a research and development type activity, with products entering into phase two and three clinical trials.”

It is envisaged that biotherapeutic treatments for oncology, chronic pain, diabetes and auto-immune diseases will be developed and manufactured at the new Cork facility. Biologics or biotherapeutics are large-molecule medicines based on proteins, peptides and antibodies that primarily come from molecular biology developments.

They must be manufactured in highly specialised and sophisticated processing plants, adhering to strict production processes.

Duffy said the company had already begun hiring for research and manufacturing positions at the plant. He said the jobs would be filled by candidates already working in the biotechnology sector in Cork, as well as graduates.

“We are on a very short timeline,” he said. “We are looking to have the facility producing material by the end of 2009, so there is a very aggressive timeline to get people in, and get them trained and ready. It means trying to hire people who have the skills already. They are high technical skilled jobs, which will require people with a technical background.”

The investment will also result in the creation of up to 500 construction and service jobs during the peak of building activity, Duffy added.

He said the new plant would complement work carried out at the company’s existing Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Centre (BBC) division, which opened in Ringaskiddy late last year, and would also have close links with Pfizer’s other sites around Ireland.

“The biologics facility is a separate site, which will be run as a separate site, but we will leverage the benefits we have in Cork, for example links with local supply companies,” he said.

Pfizer’s successful history in Cork made the Shanabally site the ideal location for the new facility, which could have gone elsewhere, Duffy said.

“When you are making an investment like this there are a number of things that you look at,” he said. “You look at the quality of the people available. Do you have people to construct it, do you have guaranteed suppliers et cetera? There are alternatives, and Pfizer could invest in other countries around the world. But what we have proven in Cork over the years is that we can deliver. So the company has a high level of confidence in Cork. That all feeds into decisions like this.”

Ffizer first established an operation in Cork in 1970, and opened its main Ringaskiddy plant in 1972. Since then it has invested over €1 billion in Ireland and now employs almost 2,300 people at its different business units in Ireland, including five manufacturing plants, sales and marketing, a global shared service business and a treasury operation in the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin. Its manufacturing operations in Loughbeg and Little Island in Cork, as well as in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, produce successful products including Viagra and Lipitor.

In February 2007, Pfizer announced plans to cut 545 jobs, closing two production plants in Cork.

“We are actively selling the two plants in Cork,” Duffy said. “That is a challenge and it is due to the ups and down of business. The sale of the two sites is very difficult for the people on those sites, who are doing a good job in a difficult environment, but that is the nature of business and the nature of business we have in Cork is changing. The latest biotechnology announcement is great because it is positive and new.”

Duffy said that, while Cork had worked hard over the years to position itself as a globally renowned pharmaceuticals hub, the region faced a more challenging foreign direct investment environment in the future.

“Cork faces similar challenges to the rest of the country,” he said. “You have to look at the whole cost structure. Ireland is not a cheap location to manufacture material. We have to try and manage our costs as best we can. We will never be a low cost location, because we have moved beyond that.”

“We need to be as efficient and cost effective as we can be. Our pay rates have to be moderate and we have to have competitive service charges and energy costs. We also have to make sure we have the qualified people.”

It was important that the Irish government and workforce realised that other countries throughout the world are working hard to become attractive locations for investment from multinationals such as Pfizer, Duffy said.

“Ireland is seen as a centre for biotechnology around the world, but we have to continue to work on attracting companies,” he said. “It is a very competitive and small world now. You look around the world at countries like Singapore which are very focused on attracting industry. Are we that focused? Unless we are hungry for it, we could drop down the pecking order very quickly.”

Written by dermot

May 25th, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Plans evolving for €500 million merged hospital

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Sunday Business Post – Cork 2008 Supplement – May 25 2008

New healthcare facility would mean people would no longer have to travel from Cork to Dublin for care, writes Dermot Corrigan

Management at Cork’s two voluntary hospitals, Mercy University Hospital (MUH) and South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH), are pressing ahead with plans for a new €500 million merged hospital for Cork city.

SIVUH chief executive Ger O’Callaghan said the two hospitals had met with a number of developers to discuss the possibility of building the new hospital under a public-private partnership, with a site in Cork’s Docklands zone put forward as one possibility.

“Over the last two years the chief executive of the Mercy, Pat Madden, and myself have met with various developers and talks are ongoing,” said O’Callaghan. “We are particularly interested in the Docklands development and there are some suggestions there. If tax breaks were available it might go up a lot quicker there.”

O’Callaghan said a public-private partnership arrangement was one possibility under consideration.

“We are working on a proposal that might be acceptable to the HSE (Health Service Executive) and would satisfy all parties,” he said.

Madden stressed that preserving the voluntary traditions of healthcare provision in Cork was a primary aim in all exploratory discussions.

“This year is the 150th anniversary of the Mercy Hospital in Cork, and there is a proud tradition there of employment and service,” he said. “We want to preserve and protect that ethos, and if there is to be a new hospital we would like it to be based on the voluntary ethos, rather than any other type of model.”

The planned 450 bed hospital, first announced last October, will cost €500 million. It will cater for 200,000-plus patients annually, drawn from Cork city, county and the province of Munster.

Madden and O’Callaghan said the venture had the full backing of both hospital’s boards, as well as medical staff. They said the new hospital would be a world-class centre of excellence for acute care and be built on core specialties worked by multi disciplinary teams and benchmarked against best international practice.

The new hospital will have fewer beds than the 646 in use in the Mercy and South Infirmary. Madden said this was in line with modern patient care requirements.

“The whole trend is towards shorter times of stay,” he said. “It is now becoming the norm for people to undergo a procedure in the morning and go home that evening. New technology is allowing us to do that.”

O’Callaghan said he hoped the capability would exist to treat some patients closer to home in the future.

“There are people coming to acute hospitals that could be looked after in the community,” he said. “It would be possible to develop a smaller, learner hospital going forward along with a realignment of services.”

He said that facilities at both the Mercy and South Infirmary needed to be upgraded.

“The infrastructure of both hospitals is a problem at the moment, given their ages,” he said. “Part of the South Infirmary were built in 1761 and the Mercy Hospital goes back to 1858. While we have state of the art facilities in the hospitals, it is still very difficult to operate in the 21st century in such an environment.”

Madden said that the new hospital should mean that people would no longer have to travel from Cork to Dublin to access any type of care.

“The aim would be to bring to the region services which people currently have to travel outside the region to access,” he said. “The south region, including Cork, Kerry, Waterford and Limerick could then be self sufficient in terms of services.”

O’Callaghan said full rehabilitation services had been flagged as a valuable addition to the new hospital.

“The area of rehabilitation is a topical area that needs to be developed in the southern region and it may or may not be part of a new development,” he said.

Madden and O’Callaghan said they were in regular contact with the HSE regarding the new project.

“We approached the HSE and they have been supportive up till this point,” said O’Callaghan. “They have asked Teamwork to look at the region and compile a report. That report is ongoing. But we hope to develop as we feel we should develop, rather than waiting for the report to come out.”

O’Callaghan said that some HSE capital funding would be required, regardless of whether the new hospital is run on a voluntary or public / private basis.

“We would need the support of the HSE, given the type of money that would be involved, but we would be confident that this will happen,” he said.

Madden said he was confident the project would go through, but declined to give an expected completion date, citing the delays affecting the new National Maternity Hospital project in Dublin.

“You are seeing in Dublin the hoops that people have to go through there,” he said.

Written by dermot

May 25th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

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Funding technology start-ups

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Sunday Business Post – Computers in Business – May 04 2008
Read this story on the SBP website by clicking

Securing capital for a new business is still possible with the right team and the right idea, writes Dermot Corrigan.

Despite the turmoil global financial markets, Irish entrepreneurs looking for funding support to turn technology ideas into viable businesses have plenty of options.

Late last year, Enterprise Ireland announced that up to €1billion was being made available to Irish entrepreneurs with suitable business ideas in its Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2007-2012. Last year alone, EI supported the establishment of 79 new export-focused high potential startup companies (HPSUs).

The Irish venture capital community is also in the process of launching the next round of their funding cycles. Maurice Roche, partner with venture capitalists Delta Partners, said the credit crunch has not had a major affect on the level of funding available to Irish start-ups.

“The amount of money available from the VC [venture capitalist] community has not dried up,” Roche said. “We have money to invest.”

All of the main banks now have dedicated business start-up packages in place that offer finance to new companies. Damian Young, head of small business segments at Bank of Ireland, said that banks were eager to help entrepreneurs get started with their businesses.

“We ourselves have a developing business loan fund, which we set up just under two years ago,” he said. “Going forward, the market is good for the right businesses.”

Who to approach
Enterprise Ireland is often the first port of call for a technology entrepreneur looking for advice. Tom Hayes, director of the high potential start-ups division, Enterprise Ireland, said that EI welcomed approaches from anyone with an idea.

“We get well over a thousand enquiries a year,” he said. “We will certainly talk to anybody who has the germ of an idea that can develop into something with the potential to sell domestically and internationally. We will provide them with some initial guidance, in terms of how they can secure some early stage funding, and support from ourselves. We will point them in the right direction at a very early stage.”

Incubation and innovation centres are also a useful resource for technology entrepreneurs unsure of where and how to get funding for their idea. The Dublin Business Innovation Centre (DBIC) is a public private partnership, including Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Dublin City Council, Enterprise Ireland and AIB established in 1987, to provide business start-up advice, incubation and access to seed funds.

“We can talk to people over the phone, or face to face,” said John McInerney, project manager with DBIC.

“We have a process that helps to identify the relevance of the entrepreneur, his or her background, the business idea, how far they have got with it so far, and there is a feasibility stage. If the idea qualifies for County Enterprise Board or Enterprise Ireland funding, we would help them put in the application.”

Roche said that venture capital companies were open to approaches from all entrepreneurs.

“It is never too early to talk to a potential funder,” he said. “Even if they say no, you will learn something from them. We operate on the basis that even when we are saying no to businesses, we give them some constructive points to build on.”

Young said banks were also happy to hold early stage negotiations with potential new customers, who were close to bringing their product or service to the market.

“If the company is seeking funding to grow the business, and has secured some contracts, or established a customer base, then bank debt or similar funding would be appropriate,” he said.

“With bank debt, the company does not relinquish a share in the company, and can benefit from support and advice from their relationship manager in their branch. We have relationship managers with particular expertise in technology businesses, so they can get a high level of advice from them.”

Roche said that technology ideas that required a good deal of research and development before a revenue stream was established, tended to take the venture capital route.

“Often with technology businesses first round funding for concepts, prototypes, at a pre-commercial stage, often equity or grant is the route taken,” he said. “Banks will look for a capacity to service the debt.”

Shane Dempsey, director, Irish Software Association, said technology entrepreneurs should talk to as many people as possible before deciding which funding route to take.

“With an increasing number of institutions such as VCs, banks and state agencies, it is important to get impartial objective advice at an early stage,” said Dempsey. “Contacting some other technology entrepreneurs is a good idea. There are many successful serial entrepreneurs in the tech sector who bear the scars of getting funding wrong and will advise you accordingly.”

How to approach
Although it is never too early to make an initial approach, Young said that potential funders wanted entrepreneurs to have clearly thought through their business idea before they considered handing over any cash.

“A business plan is vital,” he said. “It is the road map, but it is also the document that will help you secure investors. Depending on whether it is for a bank or a VC, they might tailor the style of the business plan. The bank will be looking at what this company is going to generate, the VC’s perspective is what will it be worth in one year or five years.”

“However, the fundamentals of the business plans would be consistent, including the state of the technology, the management team, the stage the business is at, the market it is focused on, the unique selling proposition, market structure, future projections and so on,” Young said.

A business plan should concentrate on the business potential of the idea, rather than the technological jargon, McInerney said.

“Sometimes a technology business plan can have 60 pages, but 40 of those pages might be explaining the product, and there might be no emphasis on the business concepts,” he said.

“You have to be able to explain the technology in simple terms and you need to have a strong marketing focus, and not recognising that early enough can cause difficulties.”

Hayes said that VCs were more concerned with the size of the market for the product or service than the practical workings of the actual technology.

“You are looking for an opportunity, is there an addressable market of some size or scale,” he said. “Most important of all is the value proposition, what is in it for the customer, whether that customer is an individual consumer or a corporate. What will attract them and make them decide to buy the product or service.”

Technology companies looking for large-scale funding need to be eyeing up international markets, according to Roche.

“The most important thing for us, when we are looking at an opportunity, is the size of the market or how big the market can become,” he said. “You would want to be looking at markets that are at least a couple of hundred mil lion dollars in size and growing aggressively – at 50 to 100 per cent per annum.

“An international focus is vital. You might get your first or second reference country in Ireland, but you need to be selling into international markets shortly after start-up.”

Roche said that while it was a good idea for tech people to get advice from people with more business experience when putting their plan together, the entrepreneur should still write the plan himself.

“You have to put your ideas down on paper and you have to be sure of who owns the plan,” he said.

“Some people will try to put other language around their idea to make it more sellable but, in my view, entrepreneurs need to put down their own points on paper, and they need to own it and believe in what they can do.”

Hayes said many different types of people approach EI for advice on starting a new tech business.

“The kind of people we get can vary enormously, from a very sophisticated team of two or three people with lots of experience of business development, to somebody coming out of a college or a research centre with very little business experience,” he said.

Inventing a groundbreaking new technology product or service and commercialising are two quite different skills. Therefore, potential funders look very carefully at the management team in place in a start-up that approaches them, according to Roche.

“Our ideal management team at the start would be someone who has very specific domain knowledge, in terms of the product, and someone who has very good domain knowledge from a sales and marketing point of view,” he said.

“The technical person can concentrate on building a team to develop the product, while the sales and marketing person will know the market and know how to sell to customers and make business partnerships along the way.”

Many of the different business sources of funding, including EI, the VCs and the banks, will offer business advice or structures to help a technology entrepreneur succeed. One example is the Business Angel Partnership, a joint initiative between Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and the Irish Business and Innovation Centres. McInerney, who is programme manager for the Business Angels Partnership, said the scheme gives a technology person access to management expertise and funding, while al lowing them to keep control of their idea.

“The business angel partnership is a combination of business skills and money,” he said. “What you do is build skillsets around the entrepreneur and the idea, adding different skills depending on the stage of development.”

When to begin
McInerney said that, while there was some doom and gloom around the Irish economy at present, this was not necessarily a bad time to start a tech business.

“People would obviously prefer to start a business in a more buoyant economy, and in expanding global market conditions, but Irish start-up businesses tend to be in niche areas which can be less affected by big global events,” he said.

“There is never necessarily a bad time to start a business. Over a five- or seven-year cycle, there will always be ups and downs.” Hayes said technologies that helped large organisations to cut their costs were especially attractive at present.

“Technologies that can provide companies with better efficiencies, or management, or information are attractive to al l enterprises,” he said. “In the current environment all companies, whether they are medium or large, will be looking for these solutions as cost pressures come to bear.”

Roche said new technology ideas with high business potential were always sought after by funders.

“We look at companies right across the technology spectrum – software, hardware, business services, Web 2.0, software-as-a-service companies, telecoms, financial services, enterprise software and media deals,” he said.

Following the latest tech fashion was not a good idea for wannabe technology entrepreneurs, according to Roche.

“Web 2.0 and social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo have been al l the rage, but you have to be there at the point in time,” he said. “The opportunities to create another MySpace are now very limited.”

Roche said that Irish government focus on ‘information economy’, in particular into universities and research institutes, should lead to more new technology start-ups going forward.

“We have seen some proposals coming from incubation facilities, and we would expect over the next couple of years to see some more businesses coming through,” he said. “Science Foundation Ireland have spent a lot of money funding research and we would expect over the next couple of years to see business ideas coming forward.”

Hayes said that good technology ideas would always find the money to back them. “There is always scope for entrepreneurship, and there are always resources there for the right idea,” he said.

Written by dermot

May 6th, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Graham builds €10m eco-friendly HQ

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Sunday Business Post – Done Deal – April 27 2008

Read this story on the SBP website by clicking here.

Northern Ireland construction company Graham is to invest £10 million in a new eco-friendly headquarters building in Hillsborough, Co. Down.

The project-team for the new Graham site also includes architects Building Design Partnership (BDP), planning consultants White Young Green and public relations consultants Strategic Planning.

The building work is expected to be completed within two years, and the project will create approximately 200 jobs. Graham executive chairman Michael Graham said the new facility would highlight the company’s wide range of building, engineering and management capabilities.

‘‘It gives us an opportunity to use the experience we have, not only in design and construction, but also in the management of these type of facilities,” said Graham. ‘‘It allows us to demonstrate all of the things that we do to our clients.”

Graham said the 3,000 square metre, three-storey, glass-fronted building will showcase Graham’s ‘green’ design and construction techniques, including natural air circulation, biomass woodchip burner and sustainable urban drainage system.

‘‘The centre of the building has a full height atrium, that helps with natural ventilation and spreads daylight throughout the building,” he said. ‘‘All the building materials are sourced locally from sustainable sources. We will have computerised co-ordination of all the various systems, to make sure that everything is managed to keep the building at the right temperature and light levels.”

Graham said that the company’s present base, at Dromore, County Down, was now too small.

‘‘We have been in the current location in Dromore for well over a hundred years, and we have just outgrown our facilities,” he said. ‘‘This allows us to create a modern working environment and bring the efficiencies that modern methods can bring, and also improve the working environment for our staff.”

Graham was established in Dromore in 1878, and now employs close to 1,000 employees, with an annual turnover of €290 million. It has interests and projects under way throughout Ireland and Britain, and Graham said it was important for the company to have an all-island presence.

Last March, Graham secured a €45 million contract, in partnership with Co Tyrone-based PT McWilliams, to construct an 8.6-mile dual carriageway bypass around Tullamore, Co Offaly. It is also undertaking the €27.5m Macken Street Bridge project.

Its accomplishments also include the new Football Association of Ireland headquarters at Abbotstown, Dublin 15, and the Dargan Luas bridge in Dundrum.

‘‘We have been working fairly consistently in the Republic since 1997,” Graham said. ‘‘It is a very important market for ourselves, and we have €100m at work on the ground in the Republic. We are very keen to grow, not just in the civil engineering side, but also in construction. Also. we have just secured our first facilities management contracts in Dublin.”

Written by dermot

May 6th, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Business,Green