Jobs saved thanks to Alnwick factory takeover

The Covance site in Alnwick.
The Covance site in Alnwick.

At least 50 jobs have been saved after it was announced today that an under-threat Alnwick factory has been taken over.

ARC Trinova, a new company formed by Ian Shott and Paul Ryan, owners of Shott Trinova LLP, has announced the successful acquisition of the Covance site in Alnwick.

The pair, both residents in the North East, have worked together for the last 15 years running businesses that operate in the global pharmaceutical market.

Mr Shott, the managing director, said: “The company considers the Alnwick site to be a large, very well-equipped facility that is perfectly designed to accommodate the full range of capabilities envisaged, with a staff of the highest calibre providing a strong internationally-competitive platform for sustainable growth in the future.”

The new company will aim to deliver best-in-class technology in the fields of contract research, development and small-scale manufacturing to maximise effectiveness while minimising risk and overall cost. ARC Trinova has a long-term vision to grow a large and sustainable business offering a broad array of services to customers all over the world.

In September last year, we reported that the renowned pharmaceutical site had been proposed for closure, putting around 130 jobs at risk, after staff were issued with letters yesterday informing them that they could be facing redundancy later in the year.

American firm Covance said it was actively seeking a buyer for some or all of the business and would explore ways of avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies. The company had been looking for a purchaser since April, but while there had been some interest in the site, no formal offers had been made.

Covance also said that a more challenging European market and the end of contractual payments in October from Sanofi, from whom Covance bought the factory in 2010, had threatened the future of operations at the site.

In October, a regional taskforce was set up, involving representatives from The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), UK Trade and Investment, Northumberland County Council, learning skills providers, Arch, the Workforce Response Team from Jobcentre Plus and the North East Chamber of Commerce, to look at finding and supporting a new buyer for the site.

Just before Christmas, it was reported that talks had started over a possible sale, with the aim of retaining at least 50 jobs, which has proved to be the case.

Coun Scott Dickinson, business chairman at Northumberland County Council, part of the Taskforce Group, said: “This is very positive news for Covance in Alnwick. The agreement will ensure that drug development can continue at this important Northumberland site and it safeguards a minimum of 50 jobs for the company’s dedicated and experienced workforce.

“The taskforce will continue to work closely with Covance management, ARC Trinova and employees to find alternative employment, training and educational opportunities for any employees needing assistance.”

Berwick MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “I was pleased to hear from Covance today that agreement has now been reached to transfer the Alnwick site to ARC Trinova.

“It is good news for Alnwick and Northumberland that we will be retaining ground-breaking drug development capabilities in our area.

“I thank the Office for Life Sciences, and the Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, for the assistance and resources they have put in alongside the local taskforce, whose support has been excellent.

“It is also good to hear that a minimum of 50 of the talented workforce will stay on, and that the taskforce remains on hand to offer assistance to staff.

“I will continue to offer all the support I can throughout the transition process and I have received assurances from the Minister that the Office for Life Sciences remains at the disposal of the taskforce.”

Steve Street, general manager and global vice-president early development at Covance, said: “The agreement with ARC Trinova provides a future for the Alnwick site and many of its staff and allows us to collaborate with ARC Trinova in certain areas linked to work performed at other Covance sites.

“The non-clinical business remains a key component of drug development within Covance.”