Scotland’s Life Sciences Dinner and Annual Awards | The Future of Merck in Irvine: Exciting Times Ahead
Scotland’s vibrant life sciences industry contributes more than £3 billion a year to the Scottish economy and is globally recognised for its impact and high levels of innovation.
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The Future of Merck in Irvine: Exciting Times Ahead

David Bucklin, Site Director, Irvine Cell Culture Media Center of Excellence for Merck KGaA, blogs about the excitement of working in the Life Sciences – one of Scotland’s most dynamic sectors  – and the importance of capturing the imagination of the next generation.

The North Ayrshire region and Scotland in general is well positioned for continued growth in the life sciences industry for a variety of reasons: proximity to Europe; world class colleges and universities; a long history of scientific and engineering innovation and a supportive business environment.

As the Director of the Merck Cell Culture Manufacturing facility in Irvine, I am amazed at the potential for life sciences in the next 10 years and beyond. I am also incredibly excited at the potential for our facility and the opportunities our customers are bringing to us.

As it stands, not enough people know about our plant and what it does for the global scientific and healthcare industries. There has been a life sciences facility on our current site since the 1960s and it has gone through as many name changes, expansions and contractions, upgrades and sign changes as many others in this sector have. Amazingly when we put new signs up early last year to reflect our Merck identity, many on site were asked by the local residents “So, Merck, who is that? What do they do over there?”

Similarly, when I describe what I do and who I work for, many hear the word “Merck” and comment “Oh, you mean {Insert popular high end auto manufacturer name here…}” which always elicits a chuckle from me, but also raises the question in my mind of why doesn’t anyone know who we are and what we do?

For us to continue that legacy of scientific discovery, cutting edge therapeutics, and global presence in an increasingly complex and innovative industry, we need to remember where the seeds are sown. At the grass roots level.

Support of schools, STEM initiatives, and children of all ages and backgrounds, is crucial to our long term advancement of medicines and therapies, and our ability to nurture the next generation of talent. Additionally, having a strong presence in the local community through charitable work and recruiting fairs is key to finding this talent, and ensures we work alongside the community to bring down barriers, raise aspirations and increase opportunity. But, if people do not know what we are about, they may never have the chance to be part of such an important and exciting industry.

When I describe what I do and what our facility produces, I simply say “We make food for cells”, and then go on to explain why that is important. I long for the day when I can say – “We are a cell culture manufacturing facility” and the person to whom I am speaking replies “Ah yes, my friend is on an arthritis therapy that relies on you and your products”.

The importance of a strong presence in young people’s education is paramount to achieving that dream. It is vital that the next generations know what my company and others in this sector contribute as these are our next scientists, researchers, complex manufacturing operators, quality control analysts, and ultimately the leaders we need to solve the toughest problems in Life Science. I am excited to be a part of this.

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