Limerick could become the 'heart' of Edwards Lifesciences' operation

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Martin Shanahan, IDA, John McGrath, Edwards, Minister Heather Humphreys alongside Joe Nuzzolese, Edwards Picture: Don Moloney/Press 22

Martin Shanahan, IDA, John McGrath, Edwards, Minister Heather Humphreys alongside Joe Nuzzolese, Edwards Picture: Don Moloney/Press 22

LIMERICK is very much in the running for a new €80m investment which will deliver 600 jobs to the region.

It was revealed this week that Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, which exists to develop heart disease technologies to help patients live longer lives, is to create the first 60 of its new roles at a unit in the Shannon Free Zone.

But after this, the company will be building a 10,000 square metre manufacturing facility – and the Leader understands the city is one of three locations the company has scouted.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader, John McGrath, corporate vice-president of the firm, based in Irvine, California, said: “When we enter into a new market, we want to enter into it 110% committed. We want our own facility, lay it out with the kinds of products we want to make. We’re in the process of making a final decision on where to locate. We’ve narrowed it down, and we hope to purchase the land to build the facility.”

The company is projecting it will come on stream by 2020, when recruitment of the 600 staff will be finalised.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” Mr McGrath added.

“We are delighted to be able to start an operation here.”

He said three things played in the region’s favour: his prior knowledge of the workforce’s capability on the west coast; a need to shorten the company’s supply chain, and the interaction the firm’s bosses have already had with Limerick’s third level institutions.

“Unlike a lot of companies, we spend 60% of our sales on research and development,” he explains. “Having university access is a huge factor for us, to see how they are integrating with industry and customising their programmes. This is extremely impressive.”

Asked what types of graduates Edwards Lifesciences, which already employs 12,000 people worldwide, is seeking, Mr McGrath cited manufacturing engineering, plus people with mechanical, industrial, plastics and biomedical engineering backgrounds.

“We would be looking for scientists in the disciplines of biology, microbiology and chemistry, as well as finance, human resources, manufacturing supervision and general operatives,” Mr McGrath said.

Edwards Lifesciences’ new facility will support the manufacture of therapies which enable minimally invasive procedures on patients’ aortic, mitral and tricuspid valves, where open heart sugery would previously have been the norm.

“The challenge with surgery is when you reach a certain point in your life, you are no longer able to tolerate it. When you’re in your 80s and 90s, and you’re looking at open heart surgery, you might not survive it,” he added.

Edwards, which is the company which invented the first heart valve in the 1950s, is hoping to be able to employ its first staff in June.

“The addition of a manufacturing location in Ireland is an element of Edwards’ global supply strategy to support future growth and reliability of supply, and continues the growth in employment Edwards has experienced both in the United States and around the world,” said Joe Nuzzolese, Edwards’ corporate vice president, global supply chain.

“Choosing this location included many considerations, but an important one is a talented workforce with experience in medical technology.  We look forward to becoming an integral part of the local community through engagement and philanthropic support, and providing educational and professional opportunities for our employees.  We are excited to welcome these new associates into Edwards, with the shared goal of serving more patients around the world by delivering high quality life-saving technologies.”

Business Minister Heather Humphreys was in Shannon this week to confirm the 600 new roles.

She said: “The arrival of Edwards Lifesciences is a vote of confidence in the Mid-West region as a destination for high-end medical technology manufacturers. It will provide even more opportunities for local residents and communities to grow and thrive. My department, through the IDA, is committed to supporting Edwards as it establishes operations in Ireland and as the company continues to develop its innovative heart valve technologies.”

Although the jobs may not be located in Shannon, it is the town’s second big investment of this year, following on from the news that 150 jobs would be created by Jaguar Land Rover.

The motors giant plans to drive the roll-out of self-motoring cars from the Shannon Free Zone.

Meanwhile, 200 jobs were made available at a jobs fair in the South Court Hotel this week.