EMA to lose 50% of its floor space in move to temporary Amsterdam home

Amsterdam - repistu/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Amsterdam, the Netherlands (repistu/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will move into temporary accommodations half the size of its current home when it leaves London in 2019. That precipitous drop in the amount of space available to the EMA will force the agency to hold meetings off-site, but the agency expects its core operation to be insulated from the disruption.

It has been clear that the EMA will need to spend most of 2019 in a temporary home in Amsterdam since shortly after the city won the race to host the agency post-Brexit. That will force a challenging double relocation on the agency. And it has now become clear the temporary site is less than ideal.

Notably, the temporary location is half the size of the EMA’s current digs in London. EMA executive director Guido Rasi thinks that will be enough to house EMA’s staff. But he was clear that the solution is not ideal. 

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“For the offices, I think we have enough [space] with some less comfortable solutions. It is workable. The core business will be run inside the building,” Rasi said at a press conference to discuss the move to Amsterdam.

The moves into and out of suboptimal accommodations further complicate an already fraught and time-pressured relocation. Rasi said the need to use a temporary site will result in the EMA spending more and taking longer to get some of its activities back up to speed after the move from London. That said, Rasi thinks the agency can avoid major disruptions to its core operation. 

If that happens, drugmakers will be spared some of the more cataclysmic eventualities that the EMA feared may arise from its relocation. But that is mainly down to the anticipated desirability of Amsterdam to the EMA’s current employees, not what the Dutch city has done to simplify the move. So far, the move to Amsterdam has become progressively more protracted and complex since the city won the race to host the agency.

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Not only is Amsterdam forcing the EMA to move into a temporary home, it has also struggled to find it that home. The EMA rejected the first temporary location proposed by Dutch authorities as not fit for purpose. That forced Dutch officials to seek out a site that will meet the EMA’s needs in the window between when it leaves London and when its permanent base is ready. Rasi said this process took longer than expected and, even then, the site fell short of expectations. 

“Even if these temporary premises are not ideal, they are the best option under the current time restrictions,” Rasi said. 

Rasi used the speech to reiterate his belief that the relocation is the biggest challenge EMA has faced in its 22-year history. Exactly how big a challenge it is will become clear once the EMA learns how many employees will move to Amsterdam and in what areas it will lose the most capacity. The EMA plans to survey staff to gauge the likely loss of expertise once Amsterdam has provided more details about schooling.