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What impact will Brexit have on life sciences?

29/07/19

While Brexit negotiations remain in limbo, there has been plenty of time for discussion around the potential impact any deal (or no deal) may have on the industry. As the life sciences industry generated £20.7 billion in turnover in 2015 and 90,000 jobs in 2016 in the UK alone, it’s an increasingly important part of the overall economy, and any disruption will want to be minimised as much as possible. So how has the market been preparing for Brexit, and what impact could the outcome have on operations and employment?

A period of uncertainty

Across Europe, more than 700,000 people are employed in the pharmaceuticals sector. In 2015, UK pharma exports to other EU countries were valued at a whopping £15 billion and accounted for one of the top five products imported and exported between the areas. The impact of Brexit is of significant concern both to those within the industry and the wider economies of the UK and Europe.

We can expect the immediate impact of a Brexit outcome to be uncertainty, particularly as the current exit scenario remains unclear. The sector could be impacted in a range of areas, including product development and market approval to medical device and medicine shipping. There is uncertainty surrounding R&D funding and UK access to the EU’s Research and Innovation Programmes, and the potential for clinical trials to become more costly, particularly phase I trials which are more predominant in the UK than any other European nation. Clinical trials in the EU must comply with the Clinical Trials Regulation, but if the UK is no longer covered under this regulation, involvement in trials may become more costly.

Additionally, we may see slower authorisation of medication and medical devices that need to meet the quality standards of the European Medical Devices Directive, however this will differ depending on the Brexit outcome. There is also concern around intellectual property rights and whether UK patents will be enforceable in the EU.

All of this is leading to other European destinations emerging as attractive markets for life sciences.

A Brexodous to Ireland

Ireland is one of the main locations UK-based companies are relocating offices to in the lead-up to October 31. Major banks such as Barclays and Merrill Lynch are shifting most of their banking assets to Dublin, while insurers are following suit in a bit to retain access to the single market when the UK leaves the union. Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Paris, Milan and Madrid have also been relocation targets amongst the major firms. Interestingly, in the wake of the Brexit vote announcement, Ireland became the top European destination for job seekers, pointing to a clear trend for both business and candidates to be looking to Ireland for their next business steps.

Almost one in three British businesses are planning to or have already relocated some of their operations abroad to meet the demands of a potential hard Brexit. This is not just limited to major international organisations, either. Smaller firms are also considering how they can future-proof their European operations in a post-Brexit society. Companies that relocate to the EU will be able to facilitate the ongoing employment of EU citizens. However, as any Brexit outcome remains unclear -and there is an expected adjustment period regardless of any such outcome – many people and businesses throughout the industry are taking a business-as-usual approach.

Life sciences

Orion’s Cork office responds to Brexit

Orion has been an international leader in the provision of personnel to the life sciences sector for years, and Brexit will not change this. We’ve met the challenges head-on and have prepared in advance, with our life sciences headquarters in Ireland ensuring we can continue regular trading. Our Cork office was established partly as a response to the Brexit announcement, and ensures we can serve our life sciences candidates and clients regardless of the outcome. Ireland is one of the leading life sciences markets in Europe, with all 10 top pharmaceutical companies boasting manufacturing companies in the nation. Our office here has a specific focus on the recruitment and selection of professionals for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and clinical research disciplines.

If you’re in life sciences and want to know more about what our Irish office can do for you, we’d love to chat.

Find us in Cork - Ireland
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