The Birmingham Business Alliance’s Vice President of Innovation and Technology Jon Nugent and Director of Research Emily Jerkins recently joined a delegation of business leaders and economic developers from across the state for a life science trade and investment mission to Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Birmingham companies AerBetic, BioGX and TriAltus Bioscience were also on the mission, which aimed to connect Alabama’s health care sector to the health care industries of both European countries. Here’s a glimpse at what happened on the mission.
Birmingham Business Alliance: What was the purpose of the Biotech Trade Mission to the U.K. and Ireland?
Emily Jerkins: The overarching purpose was to highlight Birmingham’s growing health care industry and foster its growth. We supported existing biotech companies in establishing relationships with potential partners, customers and suppliers in those markets and worked to attract prospective biotech and other tech-related companies to Birmingham.
BBA: What objectives did you have going into the mission and how were those achieved?
EJ: The primary mission objectives were relationship building and fact finding with the longer-term goal of growing existing biotech companies and recruiting new ones. We’ve received positive feedback from participating companies on their potential customers and partners and continue conversations with prospective companies and partners our team met with during the mission. This trip highlighted the importance of international trade and foreign direct investment to Birmingham’s success as we focus on growing a more diversified economy and creating high-quality jobs.
BBA: What knowledge did you bring home from the trade mission that you can incorporate into Birmingham’s biotech space?
EJ: Ireland’s coordinated policy and government resources have resulted in targeted, economic growth – it’s a very holistic, impressive approach, particularly given Ireland’s size. While Ireland is a country and Alabama is a state, there are several parallels between Ireland and Alabama historically and there’s much to be learned from their success. They went from being a primarily agrarian economy to becoming a large medtech hub, but it took them decades to get there. The entire delegation was inspired by not only Ireland’s growing health care hub, but the innovative strategies deployed to get there.
BBA: What are some highlights from the trip?
EJ: We toured the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, which is an award-winning model for health care workforce training. This training facility is one of many standout workforce programs propelling Ireland’s health care industry forward. It reinforced the importance of top-notch workforce training as we compete with other communities to grow our health care industry.
BBA: Where do we go from here?
EJ: We’re in the process of formalizing relationships with companies and entities that we met during the mission. We expect to be able to announce elements of those partnerships over the coming months.