Future Skills in High-tech Manufacturing 

Hear what Dr Ian Jones, CEO & Founder, has to say about the future of pharma and the important skills that will be needed in the future. 


An Overview

In September 2019, our CEO, Dr Ian Jones was invited to the European Parliament in Brussels for the launch of BioChem Ireland’s 10-year strategy document. Ian was part of the delegation that went over to meet several members of the European Parliament to confer on the topic of advanced manufacturing and how automation will disrupt not only Ireland but globally. The objective was to highlight the key changes that are going to happen over the next decade to Ireland’s BioPharma Industry. 

 We have a strong Biopharmaceutical Sector in Europe. There are 750,000 people directly employed in the Pharma sector in Europe and up to four times more employed indirectly. Europe is home to the Biopharma industry, being the oldest manufacturer of drugs. Ireland is a key part of the strong Pharmaceutical presence in Europe, as an island of developers and manufacturers. According to the IDA, the industry has made a capital investment of $10 billion in new facilities in Ireland which represents close to the biggest wave of investment in new Biotech facilities anywhere in the world. As we move into the fourth industrial revolution, which is driven by advancements in technology, we must remain competitive in this sector due to the high percentage of high-tech manufacturing in Europe that already exists. The challenge is how do we do this? And how do we retain the strong position that we hold when we are competing against countries like China and India. For example, India plans to upskill 2.1 million in the life sciences sector. However, Europe and more significantly Ireland have a deep pool of talent. We must use this to our advantage when moving forward.

Key Trends 

One key trend that was discussed was the shift in skills. To stay competitive, we must identify the skills shift that is needed to support the changes brought by Industry 4.0. Due to advancements in the Pharmaceutical sector, there will be a significant increase in accuracy and automation. Our CEO believes that people will need the knowledge of artificial intelligence, data analytics, process modelling, automation and data transferring of machinery to name a few. As well as soft skills such as technical skills, transferable skills, being able to summarise data and talk to people will be important too. Like many industries, the pharmaceutical industry is only at the beginning of its 4.0 journey. The rate of adoption of these technologies will increase significantly over the next decade as returns on investment in change become more tangible. The extent and depth of these changes are a sign of transformation to the entire production, management and governance systems. 

According to a 2018 PwC survey, 60% of (Bio)Pharma CEO’s globally are concerned about a digital talent shortage. Data Analytics has become critical to the (bio)pharmaceutical industry. Data Analytics within a (bio)pharma context includes how the data is generated, accessed, stored, analyzed and how it is used to make product-related decisions. All these needs are not un-related to other industries. However, the additional regulatory requirements and data security issues that arise within the biopharmaceutical context are unique. Therefore, we must provide our people with the skills necessary to meet the expectations of Pharma 4.0. 

The strength of the skills and talent in the country needs to be carefully managed and expanded on while moving into the future. We must be innovative and adapt ourselves to the new trends that Industry 4.0 brings by providing the people with the necessary skills, otherwise we will be left behind. Ian believes that Europe and more specifically Ireland, need to be innovative in coming up with ways to upskill and cross-skill our employees. 10 million new jobs that will be created as a result of advanced manufacturing and the change in the industry, so we need to provide the right skills to fill these roles. People’s ability to be collaborative and agile will be key.  

No change will happen without the support of the larger bodies. It is great to see that the Irish government are increasing funding for the Skills and Education sector and this will support making the changes needed to sustain our strong position of hi-tech manufacturing in Ireland and Europe. 

This is where Innopharma fit in. All the ideas and concepts that emerge from Industry 4.0 all align with what we do at Innopharma, between the three divisions – Education, Services & Technology. All three are aligned with making that change for the future. We try help companies to support those changes, whether it is education and skill, upskilling people in areas of validation, QC analyst and verification or developing sensors and advanced manufacturing platforms to get our machines talking and help produce products faster and more efficiently in a safe way. We are coming up with innovative ways to develop more people. 



Our Impact



Best practice in Public-Private Partnership …

Addressing the digital skills gap is urgent and immense in scale...



Winning the Irish Times Innovation Awards…

We are very proud to win the Innovation of the year award in the Design & Manufacturing Category...



Accelerating Europe's Digital Transformation…

Sustainable, Scalable Approaches to Digital Up-skilling

See All Stories