Abbott investment puts Ireland in the fast lane

Jobs are always welcome but becoming a central part of fast-growing diabetes business is huge

Abbott Laboratories’ decision to choose Ireland for a landmark investment is important for reasons beyond the sheer scale of the €440 million expansion.

The American company has been in Ireland for 75 years and has built up employment here over that time to about 5,000 people. Now, at one swoop, that will jump by another 1,000 — 800 of them at a new greenfield site in Kilkenny and the others added to the growing Donegal operation.

The decision to choose Kilkenny is in keeping with its history. Unlike many inward investors, it has eschewed the big city locations, choosing instead sites in places such as Cootehill in Co Cavan, Donegal, Sligo, Longford, and Clonmel in Co Tipperary for its manufacturing operations. For social and employment reasons, the regional diversification of good jobs is welcome.

But, importantly, this move will place Ireland at the heart of Abbott’s diabetes division, which appears to be the fastest growing part of its empire. That augurs well for the long-term prospects of the new plant.


Abbott has capitalised on the move to continuously monitored glucose, investing heavily in innovation to deliver what is now the market-leading product — Freestyle Libre. The third generation of this product — Freestyle Libre 3 — is what is destined for Kilkenny and the Irish plant is seen as critical to the geographic roll-out of the product, which is currently available only in 11 countries.

The investment also confirms the critical importance of the company’s Donegal plant, which produces the actual key technology of the device: the sensor that sits beneath the skin.

As of now, four million patients worldwide are using Abbott’s monitors, but with a potential market of about half a billion people and growing, it is easy to see the size of the opportunity for Abbott and its new Irish plant.

This third generation is a leap forward by Abbott with a much smaller and less obtrusive sensor and elimination of the need for a reader with all the glucose reading now appearing in a smartphone app. It makes glucose monitoring much easier for patients and that should improve disease management.

Abbott says the device will be offered at the same price as its existing Freestyle Libre 2 product line, which is already cheaper than its mainstream rivals. It is still working to persuade Irish authorities to broaden reimbursement among Ireland’s growing patient population. The decision to go ahead with an investment here even as Ireland is seen as a laggard in approving use of the device will be seen as a big affirmation of Ireland’s investment case by IDA Ireland.