On the 20th of November 2017, Amsterdam beat Milan to become the European Medicines Agency’s new host for its headquarters. The EU’s decision to relocate the EMA and nearly 900 of its staff members to the Dutch capital comes in light of Brexit and marks an end to the Agency’s 23 year stint in the UK.
According to Guido Rasi, the EMA’s executive Director, Amsterdam “offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs.” However, he conceded that despite the fact that a majority of staff would be willing to move with the Agency, the EMA’s activities “will be impacted” and that consequently a plan “is needed for this now to avoid the creation of gaps and expertise.” The EMA is operating under a tight schedule in order for the transition to take effect from day one of Brexit, that is before the 30 March 2019. Indeed, the EMA acknowledged that it is the single biggest challenge that it has ever had to deal with since its establishment.
The first major stumbling block to the move in Amsterdam is that no suitable offices are currently available and the Dutch Government has confirmed that the EMA’s new offices will not be ready until at least November 2019. Therefore, until the final building is ready, the EMA has confirmed that staff will gradually move to temporary premises located in the Sloterdijk area of Amsterdam. These premises were described by Guido Rasi as “not ideal” but remain “the best option under the current time restrictions." The consequence is that it will prolong the EMA’s “business continuity planning” mode, which will delay the EMA’s return back to normal operations.
Overall, the EMA’s move to Amsterdam has been welcomed by the Dutch whose bid for the EMA focused on four key elements: business continuity following the relocation for staff and business operations, long term commitment by the Dutch Government to cooperate with the EMA, a high level of international connectivity and finally a great quality of life within an internationally orientated country.
It remains to be seen how this relocation will impact the UK’s position as a central hub for healthcare regulation and the wider market. However, recent announcements of high profile foreign investment in the UK life sciences industry has provided a much needed boost in confidence.