After decades of focussing on research & development in pursuit of the next blockbuster drug, big pharmaceutical firms are finally waking up to the business case for investing in manufacturing facilities.
The UK economy has returned to growth. This was one of the key messages from chancellor George Osborne last month.
Just how substantial this growth is, and what exactly is fuelling it – genuine industrial growth or rising debt levels and house prices – is a matter of some debate.
However, what is clear is that there are definitely some process industry sectors with a far rosier outlook than they have had in the last few years.
For GlaxoSmithKline, the area where it sees potential for the biggest gains is the shift from batch to continuous processing
According to research firm ARC Advisory Group, of the major global process industries of oil & gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and food & drink, only the latter is unlikely to see growth in 2014.
That picture changes slightly when you move from a global to European perspective, with the chemicals industry also struggling as it faces increasing competition not only from Asia, but also the US: thanks to low gas prices driven by shale gas, the US chemicals industry is seeing $70 billion invested in new facilities.
This leaves the oil & gas and pharmaceuticals sectors as the two great hopes for process industry growth in the UK…and both of these sectors feature heavily in this month’s issue of Process Engineering.
With North Sea oil & gas experiencing record levels of spend as old platforms require upgrades and life extensions, and new fields get deeper and the oil gets heavier, the solutions that process engineers can offer are more critical than ever. Which is why we have launched our new Oil & Gas supplement.
Just as the North Sea has benefited from recent government tax breaks, so too is investment in the pharmaceuticals sector increasing thanks in part to a fiscal helping hand (see April’s cover feature).
The opportunities for suppliers with the right technological solutions are great: after decades of focussing on research & development in pursuit of the next blockbuster drug, big pharmaceutical firms are finally waking up to the business case for investing in manufacturing facilities.
For GlaxoSmithKline, the area where it sees potential for the biggest gains is the shift from batch to continuous processing. GSK chief executive James Witty believes this move could cut the capital cost of new plants by 50%, while existing facilities could switch to a far leaner and more modern approach of producing to order, rather than having to keep huge quantities of drugs in storage.