THE decision by drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to pump £100 million into its Scottish facilities and create a further 100 high-quality jobs could attract other pharmaceuticals makers to Scotland, experts said on Thursday.
GSK is beefing up its antibiotic production in Irvine to cope with rising demand from emerging markets, while its Montrose facility will become the first in the UK to make ingredients for its vaccines, as well as continuing with making respiratory medicines.
Scott Johnstone, chief executive of the Scottish Lifesciences Association trade body, said other global drugs makers would sit up and pay attention to the large investment north of the Border.
Johnstone said: “This is terrific news for the life sciences sector. It’s a vote of confidence in the wider industry.”
Glenn Crocker, director of Bio- City Scotland, the incubator centre that opened earlier this year at the former Merck factory in Newhouse, added: “At the end of the day, companies can build factories anywhere really. What’s made them chose Scotland is the great skills that the local workforces can offer.
“Scotland is the best location outside London when it comes to science research and that in turn produces excellent staff who can work for these firms.”
GSK chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said the Chancellor’s announcement of a “patent box” – which introduces a lower rate of corporation tax on profits generated from UK-owned intellectual property – had “transformed” the company’s view of investing in the UK.
The pharmaceuticals giant will also build a factory on its existing site at Ulverston in Cumbria – its first facility to be constructed in the UK for 40 years – and will invest in its plant at Barnard Castle in County Durham.
GSK, which already employs some 15,000 people in Britain with almost 6,000 in manufacturing, will create a total of 1,000 jobs across the UK as a result of the £500m spending spree.
The firm said construction on the £350m project at Ulverston is expected to begin in 2014-15, dependent on planning consents, and that it may double investment at the site to £700m if there is a further improvement in the “environment for innovation”.
There are currently 240 GSK staff at Ulverston involved in the manufacturing of key ingredients for antibiotics.
Witty said the “patents box” ensured the “medicines of the future will not only be discovered, but also continue to be made here in Britain”.
There will be £80m invested at Ware in Hertfordshire, to increase manufacturing capacity for its next-generation respiratory inhalation device, and at Barnard Castle, to establish a dermatology manufacturing centre of excellence.
Witty added: “We are also actively considering other investments in our UK manufacturing network, which would create further jobs and reinforce the UK’s international competitiveness and as a world leader in life sciences.”
First Minister Alex Salmond toured the Irvine site on Thursday, while finance secretary John Swinney visited the plant at Montrose. Salmond said Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International had been working with GSK to expand its facilities north of the Border.
He added: “The quality and skills of the local workforces in Montrose and Irvine have played an important part in the company’s decision to expand their operations. This new investment reinforces Scotland’s global reputation for research excellence and the competitiveness of our business environment. It also highlights Scotland’s international profile in life sciences.”
In October, GSK unveiled a landmark deal with Edinburgh BioQuarter to develop treatments for acute pancreatitis and followed it up with a pair of research contracts with Dundee University in December and earlier this month.
Full details of GSK’s investment are available on the GSK website