FDI in Waterford: Sanofi’s strong partnership with the southeast

Sanofi is one of the largest employers in the southeast, and site head Amy Brennan says the company has invested over €700m in its Waterford facility

Amy Brennan, site lead, Sanofi: ‘If I was to put our success in Waterford down to one thing, it’s the people who come to work here. There is proven local talent [and] we’re very proud to have 27 nationalities working here’. Picture: Patrick Browne

When Amy Brennan took on the role of site head in 2022, she was already familiar with the workplace landscape. A Kilkenny native, she had lived and studied in Waterford before embarking on a role at Genzyme, acquired in 2011 by Sanofi, a leading biopharma company.

“To grow up with the company has been very fulfilling,” said Brennan. “We are one of the largest companies in the southeast with 850 direct employees, and then, in the wider sphere, there’s the Sanofi network, where we could have 1,000-plus people coming into work here in Waterford on any given day.”

Across the southeast, foreign direct investment continues to grow. IDA Ireland has 86 client companies, including Sanofi, which employs 15,301 people directly, with a further 12,400 indirect jobs supported in the wider economy.

Brennan said the success of Waterford’s FDI reach is evident from the view from her office window, where pharmaceutical companies and biotech giants like Bausch + Lomb, West Pharmaceuticals and Amgen sit side by side with Sanofi.

“I think the south east is a great place in terms of employment and quality of life,” she said. “There is quite a lot of industry and what we find now is that the capability of the workforce in the surrounding areas is of a very high calibre. We have people leave to go to neighbouring sites and vice versa, but this isn’t a challenge because we have a highly qualified local workforce with plenty of opportunities.”

Another advantage is Sanofi’s links with the South East Technological University (SETU)

While Brennan commutes to work from Kilkenny, a commute of 40 minutes by motorway, many employees are from Waterford or have re-located to live there. She said the advantages afforded to employees include local amenities and unspoiled beaches, which are just a short drive from Sanofi and the IDA industrial park base. There are also excellent transport links with Dublin and Cork.

“As a place to live, Waterford is fantastic,” she said. “The beautiful beaches are world-class. Our head of people and culture, Martin O’Leary, recently told me he had been out training the U-11 hurling team on the beaches of Tramore just 20 minutes after leaving work. It’s amazing that you have that so close to the site. The quality of life really is fantastic here.

“If I was to put our success in Waterford down to one thing, it’s the people who come to work here. There is proven local talent and the wider area attracts commuters from Cork, Dublin and elsewhere.

“We’re very proud to have 27 different nationalities working on our Waterford site, whereas a counterpart in Belgium has told me they do not have a wide mix of nationalities at their location.

“You can put a building and equipment anywhere in the world, but what we have in Waterford is a capable workforce with a vested interest in the site, who are willing to go above and beyond. We’ve really got a reputation of performing and delivering on time and Sanofi has been good to Waterford with an investment of over €700 million in our facility, so it’s a two-way street.”

Another advantage is Sanofi’s links with the South East Technological University (SETU). Brennan holds a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing technology, a master’s degree in science from SETU and an MBA from Dublin City University (DCU).

“The partnership that we have with SETU is really important,” she said. “A lot of our staff come out of SETU, and we have an active programme where you can do a Springboard upskilling or reskilling course; others complete degrees while in part-time roles, with the flexibility allowing different people to reach their full potential – often training and upskilling for our team members to technicians or engineers.

“We also have a strong partnership with the apprenticeship programme across a number of disciplines including analytical science, quality control and microbiology. Apprentices split their time between university and on-the-job training, securing a degree or equivalent qualification along the way.

“It’s also lovely to get positive feedback, with one graduate apprentice telling me that mainstream learning was not for him, but the blended learning and working really worked for him, and he wants to go on and do more education.

“So, those results wouldn’t happen without the strong partnerships we have in education and with the Waterford and Wexford Education Training Board. They help to feed our training programmes and for us it’s been very successful in providing resources in critical areas.”

Sanofi is one of IDA’s FDI success stories. Located in Waterford, IDA’s southeast regional office has seen strong growth in its number of client companies. Over five years, employment in FDI clients has grown by 14 per cent and the number of IDA clients has grown by 21 per cent. The region has vibrant clusters in key strategic sectors including life science, bio pharmaceuticals, med tech, food, finance, business, engineering and technology.

“As part of its current strategy, Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth 2021 to 2024, IDA Ireland is focused on targeting opportunities for growth among IDA’s established base of clients through investments in the areas of research, development and innovation, digitalisation, training, and decarbonisation,” said a spokesperson for the IDA.

“In late 2023, IDA completed a second Advance Building Solution (ABS), in the IDA Technology Park in Butlerstown, Waterford. This is a high-spec manufacturing building of 39,000 square feet, with adjacent lands, and IDA Ireland is actively marketing this to potential investors.”