Bayer pledges $300M to boost production in world’s ‘contraceptive capital’

Bayer, currently in the midst of a gung-ho cell therapy expansion in the U.S., is turning its attention back to Europe as it looks to beef up its birth control manufacturing in the world’s “contraceptive capital.”

The company has designs on a €250 million ($303 million) investment for a new production plant in Turku, Finland, which it’s pegged to become “one of the most modern” factories in the world thanks to its heavy use of automation and robotics, Bayer said in a release Thursday. The cash will also be used to make upgrades at an existing plant there.

The new factory is expected to be complete by 2025 and will be built on an existing building in the city’s Artukainen district, where Bayer already boasts pharma manufacturing operations. The plant will feature digital data visualization and its floor plan will be designed to streamline material and personnel flow, the company says.

Meanwhile, Bayer is also charting modernization efforts at its current Turku facility, where the company makes polymer-based pharmaceuticals and long-acting contraceptives. In fact, the company pegged Turku as one of its “most important pharmaceutical plants globally.”

Bayer didn’t outline a specific focus for the upcoming plant, but noted the new facility would play a part in the company’s goal to “provide one hundred million women in developing countries with access to modern prevention and family planning by the end of 2030,” Miriam Holstein, chief executive at Bayer Nordic, said in a statement.

Bayer established the existing Turku plant way back in the 1960s. It currently exports products to more than 130 countries.

Bayer’s Finnish workforce clocks in at around 1,000 employees. It hired almost 150 new staffers there last year and has also cited the need for a “highly skilled workforce in the coming years” there.

The allure of Finland comes down to the country’s “top-level research” and high level of specialized expertise, as well as a “fairly high level of education,” Bayer Nordic chief Holstein said in the Thursday release. For context, city data show that 75% of Finnish drug exports come from Turku, and half of the Finnish companies making diagnostics or drugs are based in the city, Chinese publication Xinhua reports.

Elsewhere on the expansion frontlines, Bayer recently drew up plans for a $200 million cell therapy factory in Berkeley, California, where a separate cell culture facility and cell and gene therapy labs are due to come online later this year.

Meanwhile, Bayer has proposed a 30-year site development deal with the City of Berkeley that would add about 1 million square feet of new work space and double its headcount there by hiring 1,000 more employees.