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Sergi Vilar, Vicepresident, Head of Pharma & APIs Sites Cluster at Merck Group

Merck is the oldest chemicals and pharmaceutical company in the world. With nearly 50,000 employees working in 70 countries, it has been present in Catalonia for roughly 100 years. The relationship with our country became even deeper in 1974, when the firm opened a production plant in Mollet del Vallès, Barcelona. Here it has doubled production after investing €40 million in the past four years. Sergi Vilar is VicePresident, Head of Pharma & APIs Sites Cluster at Merck Group.
Fragment from the interview published by Catalonia Trade & Investment on its website on 15/07/19

Could you tell us about Merck’s recent investments in Catalonia?

The company’s commitment to the Mollet del Vallès plant is clear: in recent years we have had an annual investment of more than 10 million euros for the improvement of our facilities and the increase in the productive activity.

By 2015 we produced between 45 and 47 million packs of medicines, and in 2019 the number will be over 80 million. That is, in 4 years we have multiplied by two our production. This in the industry are tremendous growth rates.

We have also grown at rates higher than 10% in our plant in terms of quality jobs. In 2016 there were 291 workers, and now there are 333. Our future plans mean we are extremely optimistic about being able to grow our job offer and to be able to contribute to the wealth and well-being of the region.

What percentage is exported from Catalonia and to which countries?

The Mollet facility is clearly an exporting site: over 80% of production goes abroad. Our main market is Europe, which means that we need to export with very high-quality standards. We also export to other places such as Asia, the Middle East, North America and South America.

What are the strengths of Catalonia? Why are you committed to investing here?

Whenever we fight for new investments and to manufacture products here in Mollet, we follow an internal procedure that is based on demonstrating why Mollet should be the winning site and not another Merck plant in the world.

And this is where the strong points that I think we have in Catalonia are important. The first is that we are in Europe. This is very important in many markets: we are in a region with the highest quality standards of the world and this is an added value.

Furthermore, as regards European costs, we are very competitive. The productivity rate of our facilities is very high in Europe; our production costs and projects are much cheaper than in France or Germany; and the highest quality paired with competitive costs is very important.

And here it is necessary to add things that are out of our control, but that we also have: we have Barcelona, ​​which is an extraordinary magnet for talent. Everyone wants to come to work in Barcelona and this is a very important asset. And direct communications with Europe by road, train, port and airport are very important. All of this makes it really a very important hub and an added value. This intangible part of just being where we are is frequently a winning factor.

How do you see the pharmaceutical industry in Catalonia?

Right now, we are in a singular moment. On one hand, there are multinationals like Merck, Novartis and Grífols, for example, that are growing and committing themselves to growth and investments in Catalonia; and on the other hand, we have the traditional Catalan pharmaceutical companies, the family businesses, who are going through a hard time.

They are in a moment of transition and looking for their own niche and dimension. They are companies that maintain a very interesting network of talent for us. The multinationals often turn to these companies to attract professionals, who we also sometimes send abroad.

So, here I think we all have to give a helping hand to see how to make them survive, as they are really very important for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry here in Catalonia.

Do you think it is easy to find or attract talent from your sector in Catalonia?

Yes, it is. They are very specific profiles, but we have a pool of talent promoted by this mixed network of multinationals and local, traditional, pharmaceutical and Catalan chemical companies.

We have some excellent universities that provide us with high level technical profiles and it’s quite easy for us to attract talent from outside if we need it due to one special advantage; the region’s appeal. Catalonia and Barcelona are an extremely powerful magnet for international talent and there are many people who are happy to come and work with us because we are located where we are.

Full interview here.

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