AstraZeneca eyes £100m plant expansion

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is looking to get up to £100m of support from Whitehall to expand a vaccine manufacturing facility in Merseyside, it has been reported.

According to the Financial Times, the company is preparing a formal application for the cash to help expand its operations at its nasal flu vaccine plant in Speke, near Liverpool.

The newspaper reported that the plans had not yet been finalised and it could instead seek to expand a medicines manufacturing base in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

“They want some government cash,” one official, who believes the company may ask for as much as £100m, told the FT. “It would be looked on favourably.”

In May last year, chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled a £650m “war-chest” to boost the life-sciences sector.

At the time, he said: “Our life-sciences sector employs over 280,000 people, makes £94bn for the UK each year and produced the world’s first Covid vaccine.

“These are businesses that are growing our economy while having much wider benefits for our health – and this multimillion pound investment will help them go even further.”

In July, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot was appointed to prime minister Rishi Sunak’s business council, alongside a number of other bosses including Taylor Wimpey’s Jennie Daly.

It was widely reported that five months earlier Soriot said that the UK’s ambition to become a life-sciences superpower was being hampered by a discouraging tax environment and wider business climate.

The company had just decided to build a new manufacturing facility in Ireland rather than in the UK.

Soriot said that in other markets “you know you’re going to get access and you’re going to get a price that can justify the investment”.

An AstraZeneca facility in Cambridge, including its headquarters, was first unveiled in 2013 and was project-managed by Skanska and then Mace. Its cost trebled from £330m to £1bn.

Maria Eagle, a Labour MP whose constituency includes Speke, told the FT: “I will support in any way I can their expansion plans. It would be good for the country in terms of resilience against future pandemics and for the local community. I hope the government will support them to enable this development to go ahead.”

AstraZeneca told Construction News that it would not be commenting on the issue.

A UK government spokesperson said they do not comment on commercial matters. They added: “The government is committed to cementing the UK’s status as one of the best locations in the world for global life-sciences companies to invest and innovate.

“Over the past year we have announced a raft of measures backed by over £1bn to support investment, growth and innovation in UK life sciences […] and we continue to invest heavily in R&D at record amounts.”

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