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Low-risk AND rapid? Brit vaccine centre seeks ERP to meet accelerated schedule, and needs it yesterday

Org was originally supposed to launch in 2022 – then a pandemic happened

The UK's £158m Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC) has an "urgent requirement" for a £7m SaaS ERP system as the facility's launch is being accelerated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The government-backed organisation designed to work across universities and industry was first announced in 2018 before the coronavirus outbreak.

Originally planned top open before the end of 2022, the launch was brought forward to 2021 in response to the pandemic.

A tender notice from the VMIC, a UK nonprofit, said the ERP must be locally hosted, with the contract worth up to £7m set to include consultation, project management, implementation, hosting, service support and upgrades, and disaster recovery. It will need to support a regulated pharmaceutical environment such as industry-standard GxP compliance requirements including EudraLex Volume 4, for example.

The tender says the organisation has come to the point where it needs an ERP system, and the need is pressing.

"Given the prevailing circumstances, VMIC must make every effort to bring online its manufacturing and support services at the earliest opportunity. To meet this goal the implementation of an ERP system is considered an urgent requirement," the contract notice said.

"VMIC recognises that the service provider will be required to speedily provide robust solutions to its specific industry needs and anticipates a fully-managed configured off-the-shelf solution delivered with extensive support services based on industry knowledge and expertise, best in class project management and a low-risk rapid implementation."

The organisation expects to buy 30 concurrent and 60 named user licences. The initial contract will be for three years, with the option to extend twice by two years on each occasion. The estimated £7m cost covers the entire period.

VMIC was established by the University of Oxford, Imperial College, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with support from industrial partners MSD, Johnson & Johnson, and Cytiva, formerly known as GE Healthcare. Initial funding came from a £65m grant from UK Research and Innovation; in 2020 it received an extra £93m to expand the facility's capabilities and fast track the build.

Despite the accelerated timetable, for Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, it has not been quick enough. The researcher who led the development of the UK's celebrated Oxford vaccine told The Guardian: "It is wonderful that we are getting the centre, but it won't be ready until late 2021. It would have been better if it had been up and running in 2020. It is going to help us in the future, but there wasn't sufficient emphasis on getting it ready quickly."

Experienced professionals for whom saying "low-risk rapid implementation" and "ERP" in the same sentence is difficult might worry that the current timetable is vulnerable to slippage. ®

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