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Pfizer's CRO plans for Sandwich will have limited impact

Published on 15/03/11 at 11:32am
Pfizer's Sandwich research facility
Pfizer intends to close its Sandwich research base by 2013

Pfizer’s efforts to attract contract research organisations to take over part of its Sandwich research site will only benefit a limited number of its existing staff.

The company is in confidential talks with around ten CROs, but a new report says the deals could only provide jobs for "a few hundred" of the site’s 2,400 employees.

The Sandwich economic development task force’s thirty-day report to ministers wants additional investment incentives for the region, but does back giving the site a 'CRO core' and breaking it up into smaller units.

It said Pfizer is currently reviewing a number of proposals and considering spin‐out opportunities that could see some of its assets, facilities, equipment and staff transferred to CROs.

The task force wants wider assistance from the government, and is calling for an enterprise zone to be set up in East Kent to help save jobs when Pfizer’s Sandwich research site closes in 2013.

The task force forecasts that, in addition to the 2,400 staff Pfizer currently employed at Sandwich, a further 1,600 jobs in the wider local economy will be at risk when the site closes.

It says giving Research, Innovation and Technology Zone (RITZ) status to East Kent would attract new investment to the region and lessen the impact of Pfizer’s exit.

At today’s briefing in Westminster, task force chairman Paul Carter said: “Our report focuses on the opportunities presented by the world class skills and facilities built by Pfizer over the last 60 years.

“Combined, they offer a unique asset on which to build a new model of high tech growth and employment which would be of importance not only to Kent, but to the country.

If, as it suggests, East Kent is granted RITZ status new investors could benefit from National Insurance contributions holidays, support to secure R&D tax credits. streamlined regulatory and planning processes and a range of other incentives.

“Time is of the essence,” Carter said. “We will leave no stone unturned in stimulating new business at the Pfizer site and growing wider employment opportunities to help Pfizer staff, local contractors and the local community.”

Sandwich Site Head Ruth McKernan said Pfizer’s ‘immediate priority’ was to continue to support its staff over the next 18 months.

“We are [holding] training and outplacement events, as well as to continuing our discussions with third parties that could help provide some jobs to meet the skills and expertise of our colleagues and help sustain the future of the Sandwich site.”

The company announced last month that it’s main R&D site in Sandwich, East Kent, would be closed by 2013 as it looks to reduce its global research spend by around $1.5 billion.

Ben Adams

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