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Turku set to become "world's contraceptive capital" with new €250m pharmaceutical plant

One of the largest industrial investments in Finland in recent years, the new Bayer plant is to employ some 200 people when it opens in 2025.

Bayer has had operations in Turku since the 1960s. Image: Tommi Pylkkö / Yle

The German pharmaceutical giant Bayer plans to build a major new plant in Turku. It will also upgrade its existing 30-year-old production facility in the southwestern Finnish city.

According to the company, the 250-million-euro investment will strengthen Bayer's footprint in Finland and Turku's role as "the world's contraceptive capital".

“One of our goals is to provide 100 million women in developing countries with access to modern contraception and family planning by the end of 2030,” said Miriam Holstein, CEO of Bayer Nordic in a statement on Thursday.

Bayer says that Turku plays a significant role in the firm's global sustainability strategy, which includes measures to support gender equality and family planning.

"In this way, we can influence women's health and social status, education and family size," said Holstein.

According to Holstein, Bayer's goals dovetail with the Finnish government's strategy for Africa, which was published in March (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

"We have an ongoing dialogue with the Finnish government and our other stakeholders," she said.

Birth control from Turku to 130 countries

Bayer's new plant is to begin operations by 2025. It will be constructed on an existing building in Turku's western Artukainen district, where Bayer already has operations.

"The current plant was established in the 1960s. Investments are also needed to modernise our existing plant," said Jennifer Hunt, Head of Bayer's Product Supply Centre in Turku.

According to Hunt, Turku is Bayer's global centre of expertise and innovation in polymer-based pharmaceutical technology and long-acting contraceptives, and thus also one of Bayer's most important pharmaceutical plants globally. Turku develops and manufactures long-acting contraceptives that are exported to more than 130 countries.

Bayer employs more than 1,000 people in Finland, mostly in Turku. Last year, it hired almost 150 new employees in Finland despite the pandemic.

"With the growing demand, we will also need a highly skilled workforce in the coming years," said Holstein.

National drug development centre planned in Turku

"This investment will have multi-annual effects on the Finnish economy. It strengthens the vitality of the Turku region in these difficult times," Holstein said.

According to the city of Turku, almost 75 percent of Finnish pharmaceutical exports are generated by companies operating in the Turku area.

Preparations for a national drug development centre in Turku have been underway for several years. In March, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said it might be possible to set up the centre as early as this year. However, no decisions have yet been made.

Tom Palenius, interim CEO of Turku Science Park, predicted that Bayer's investment in Turku would advance progress on the drug centre.

"The establishment of a national drug development centre in Turku will be directly linked to Bayer," he told Yle.

"I sincerely hope that the long-running debate on the location and start-up of the national drug development centre will get even more momentum and a final push to the finish line," said Palenius.