Sunday 20 October 2019

The Invest in Ireland Awards are back: Here’s a look at last year’s winner

The Invest in Ireland Awards , which celebrate and award best practice in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and are supported by IDA Ireland, are now open for entry.

The awards, which began last year, are open to all overseas owned, internationally traded manufacturing or services companies operating in the Republic of Ireland.

You can now enter online for free and the 10 chosen award categories reflect the breadth of activity among multinationals across a range of sectors and locations throughout the country.

Ahead of the closing date on Monday, October 14, we caught up with Niall O’Leary of Regeneron, the largest biotech facility in Ireland, to talk about how winning at last year’s Invest in Ireland Awards was a proud moment for his team and how investing in Ireland was a great decision for the company.

“Winning at the Invest in Ireland Awards in 2018 was one of the proudest moments we have ever had here,” says Niall O’Leary, Vice President and Site Head Industrial Operations and Products Supply (IOPS) for Regeneron in Limerick. “Winning was real recognition for everyone who worked so hard to achieve the company’s goals over the last five years.”

Founded over 30 years ago in the United States, Regeneron is a leading biotechnology company that invents life-transforming medications for people with serious diseases all around the world. Their medicines and pipeline are designed to help patients with a range of conditions and illnesses including eye disease, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, allergic and inflammatory diseases, infectious and rare diseases, pain, and cancer.

When Regeneron won the overall Grand Prix award and the category of ‘Excellence in Regional Investment’ at the first-ever Invest In Ireland Awards in 2018, O’Leary says that it showed the importance of their work in Ireland.

“The company made the right decision to invest in Ireland. It shows off the dedication of the company and everyone working here. It makes it clear that we have been successful and that the country has welcomed us with open arms and has become our home.”

Coming home

O’Leary, originally from Killarney in Co Kerry, worked with Regeneron in New York for several years before the company decided to develop the Industrial Operations and Product Supply (IOPS) Limerick site in Ireland in 2014. O’Leary jumped at the chance to move back to his home country, where the company was setting up the largest bioprocessing campus in Ireland.


“The location in Raheen, Limerick is just half an hour away from Shannon Airport and two hours from Dublin. Ireland is a great base to connect with other European markets and there is an incredibly well-educated workforce here. The IDA Ireland supported our move here, and they're the best at what they do; attracting foreign direct investment. They bring delegations from the US to tour the country and see exactly what Ireland can offer to businesses investing in Ireland.”

Regeneron has become well-integrated into the local community and plays a large role in the economy of the midwest of Ireland. O’Leary says that they are proud to call themselves a midwestern company and from a personal standpoint, he couldn’t be happier to be where he is.

“Limerick is a counterbalance to Dublin’s congestion and sprawl. We have specialised jobs, well-paid employees and we continue to grow in the region. When I came home to Ireland, I got married and I now have a daughter, so it’s been a great move for me, as well as for the company.”

Boosting the midwest

At the time Regeneron came to Ireland, the country was just starting to come out of the recession. Limerick had a large unemployment rate and needed to be rejuvenated. The company initially invested €300 million with 300 jobs planned. To date, they have invested more than €1 billion and now have almost 900 employees in the region. This is dramatic growth in just five years.

“I believe Regeneron was a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for Limerick,” says O’Leary. “Regeneron has been the catalyst for bringing Limerick and the midwest back to being a booming region. The company pumped money into the local economy and we have taken a steady approach to growth. As the Regeneron catchment area is at least one hour commuting distance, this helped bring in employees from Galway, Portlaoise and even Kerry.”

O’Leary says that Regeneron has brought much to the region, not just the near 900 workers directly employed by the company, but it has helped other companies expand also. Regeneron hires cleaning companies, catering companies, maintenance and IT companies from around the area to help run the facility. The 49,000 sqm facility was set up in record time and has made significant contributions to the local economy.

“I encourage other companies to invest in Ireland and I welcome other biotech companies to relocate here to create a biotech hub in the midwestern region. There is a medical device hub in Galway and biotech hubs in Cork and Dublin, and we would love to develop a hub in Limerick too. It would do wonders for the region and the industry.”

A success story

With the uncertainty of Brexit, Ireland needs more companies to invest in the country to remain on a strong footing globally. Regeneron’s recognition as an Invest in Ireland Awards winner is a beacon of the Irish offering and strength in the sector. As Regeneron has had such rapid growth in just five years by investing in the Irish economy and people, other companies can aim for the same success.

O’Leary says; “Both awards were amazing to win but the ‘Regional Investment Award’ was especially important to us, because of all the work we have put in at our site in Limerick. Every person here plays a role, from the scientists to the accountants to the people working in manufacturing. I am amazed at the standard of technical and general knowledge of the industry in Ireland.

“There is a saying that, ‘You can gauge how well the economy is doing by looking at the number of cranes outside.’ As I look outside my window here in Raheen, I see five cranes! There certainly weren’t five cranes anywhere outside Limerick City before Regeneron came here. We have grown tremendously, and we are continuing to grow. We are currently building an 800-space multi-story car park and another 10,000 square meter laboratory and administration building, so we are not slowing down.”

O’Leary says that outside of the US, Ireland is the number one country for biotech and pharmaceutical manufacturing. He mentions that the biotech company entered the awards to showcase what they have achieved on the west coast of Ireland, far away from the base of New York.

“I would absolutely recommend other companies to invest in Ireland and enter the Invest in Ireland Awards. It’s a great opportunity to recognise everyone who works hard every day in the company. It also helps to acknowledge the contributions of IDA Ireland who help get companies like us into Ireland and continue to help us settle into the country. We are a success story in Ireland, and I think we are an example of what others can do here.”

The Invest in Ireland Awards present a valuable opportunity to elevate your organisation’s profile, network with other FDI leaders and promote your business to potential new talent. There is no cost to enter and it has a quick and easy online application process. Find out more or submit an entry for free here.

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