Making a Point.
Dianne Sharpe, managing director of Northumberland-based SCM Pharma, on the importance of SMEs, skilled staff and building stock within the region.
It is widely held that a growing SME community in North East England is vital if the region is to continue to grow its pharmaceutical sector.
More than this, Dianne believes that SMEs are actually the breeding grounds of novel inventions and services, entrepreneurship, and the training and development of flexible multi-skilled staff. ‘This environment feeds into the larger pharma players with facilities in the region, encouraging them to stay, creating a virtuous circle which further attracts SMEs and larger organisations to the region,’ says Dianne.
While the North East is working towards this goal, it is not always effective: the region has a strong engineering and manufacturing heritage, yet it is unable to harness this to develop skills for the sector. ‘In addition,’ says Dianne, ‘we need to merge and simplify things like CELS, Science City and NEPIC, and create a critical mass that will attract and support SMEs.’
We deal with novel, difficult and dangerous products and processes. We develop and manufacture the products other people can’t or don’t want to handle.”
The pharmaceutical industry has an insatiable appetite for skilled staff, but Dianne is pushing for a general local attitude of investing in ‘grow our own’. ‘One of the biggest challenges is to find experienced staff who want to, and who can, adapt to the culture of an SME, rather than large pharma companies, and to do this we need to improve links between the SME community and our local universities. We have five – FIVE! – universities in close proximity, including highly valued pharmacy and medical departments. They can be viewed as a central hub around which the pharma sector develops and engages. We need to work with them to develop programmes that fit with the needs and demands of an SME.’
According to Dianne, good quality buildings are another problem. While there is no lack of building stock in the region, the quality is often poor and the costs of bringing them to the sort of order required for GMP facilities make them prohibitively expensive. ‘We need to improve building stock – or get a move on developing Science City!’
As a contract manufacturing and development organisation, SCM Pharma works in collaboration with its clients to develop both the product and the manufacturing processes. As an SME, it prides itself on not necessarily knowing all the answers, but at having a high quality, reliable set of external companies and experts that they work with to provide a full solution.
Dianne Sharpe biography
With over 20 years’ experience in manufacturing and senior management positions, Dianne joined SCM Pharma in 2010 and currently heads up the business overseeing its 50+ team.
Prior to this she was Managing Director at Bishop Auckland-based Mechetronics, the UK’s leading manufacturer of solenoids, successfully leading the business in establishing overseas facilities in India and China, and the eventual sale of the business to a large US corporate.
In her current role, Dianne is responsible for delivering the company strategy and all day-to-day operations at SCM Pharma, including improving operational efficiency, driving business growth and identifying of new markets.
A Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA), Dianne also has an MBA from Durham University and is a Non-Executive with Business & Enterprise North East.