Biogen Idec: Danish wages and taxes are not decisive

Biotech giant, Biogen Idec, which is expanding rapidly in the Danish city, Hillerød, sees developments in a very different light than other international companies working out of Denmark.

Foto: PR

Biotech giant, Biogen Idec, goes against a brand new analysis in which a range of international companies largely agree that it is too expensive to run a business in Denmark. Denmark has what it takes, and wages and taxes are not decisive factors, says Biogen’s Head of Global Production, John Cox.

When Medwatch asked him why Biogen Idec would choose to place its international production facilities, handling all manufacturing outside of the US, in Denmark of all places – a country with massive takes and wage levels – John Cox had this to say:

“Many companies look towards countries with low wages and taxes, but that is not decisive for us. The quality of the product is what matters to us. So having a work force that you can count on 100 per cent both technically and in terms of quality is far more important than saving on wages.”

525 employees and more to come

Biogen Idec began building its production facilities in Hillerød in 2001 and at present the company employs 525 people, and there are no indications the hiring of new workers will stop any time soon. The work is highly technological manufacturing of biological drugs, initially focusing on the company’s top asset, multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri. From the Danish factory, the drug is set to be manufactured for 40,000 patients outside of the US.

The global head points to access to a well-educated work force, including engineers, biochemists and lab workers, as a crucial factor for the company’s decision to set up shop in Denmark, as well as a business friendly environment, including collaboration with regional municipalities, a stabile framework for business policies, stabile tax conditions, a flexible labour market and good patent protection rights.

“It’s about being able to plan ahead, we are making long term investments,” he stresses.

Look at other countries

Although given the opportunity, John Cox does not have a single critical word to offer on Danish conditions. But Biogen’s CEO in Denmark, Esther Alegrio, advices the Danish Minister of Commerce and European Affairs, Nick Hækkerup (S), to keep a close watch with other countries around Denmark.

“We are in global competition, and just as Denmark is looking at how to make the country more competitive so is Germany, Ireland, Spain, and others. If I were to offer one piece of advice to the Minister it would be to understand what other countries are doing to become more attractive,” she says.

Although the Danish branch of the biotech company keeps hiring new workers, she denies speculation that the source is running dry, and she has been positively surprised at how easy it has been to recruit the right people.

In the annual Business Barometer from the US Chamber of Commerce in Denmark (AmCam Denmark), quoted by several news outlets in the past week, the conclusion is that Denmark is not sufficiently competitive. Denmark is too expensive a country to run a business in, and 54 % of international companies in Denmark are considering moving their investments and workplaces out of the country, the report reveals.

- translated by Martin Havtorn Petersen

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