Ireland and Wales betting big on life sciences

9 Nov 2016

Life sciences. Image: VILevi/Shutterstock

Some 240 SMEs are the focus of a new life sciences agreement between Ireland and Wales, with the latter betting big on science post-Brexit.

A modestly funded €12m life sciences network has been created to assist Irish and Welsh businesses to innovate, with the countries’ governments getting behind CALIN (Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network).

CALIN will help more than 240 SMEs in the two countries, creating what the organisers call “open access to a unique strategic international partnership”. Six higher education institutions and two global healthcare leaders (Unilever and GE Healthcare) will offer their expertise.

life science

This will see a “powerful knowledge base” shared among the companies, with access to a network of key stakeholders, including those involved in supply chains, route-to-market and end-user healthcare providers.

The six higher education institutions are: University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Galway, Tyndall National Institute, Bangor University, Cardiff University and Swansea University.

This comes at a time when Wales is betting very big on science, despite just months passing after the UK’s electorate voted to leave the EU and, with it, the potential for millions of euros in multinational research projects.

The Welsh government’s 2012 Sêr Cymru initiative has seen up to £110m (£50m before last year) poured into the scientific community, aiming to bring prestigious research chairs to Welsh universities.

It also aims to support national research centres operating in life sciences, low carbon, energy, advanced engineering and materials fields.

The latter part of the funding (£60m announced at the end of 2015) is targeted at boosting research capacity by offering fellowships. Throughout the whole Sêr Cymru initiative, 30 scientists and 120 fellows will be recruited.

For CALIN though, and Wales’s Irish partnership, it’s all about the life sciences sector. This is “key” to the future of new products, technology and jobs according to the Welsh government’s finance secretary Mark Drakeford.

Prof Frank Barry, who leads the CALIN project at NUI Galway, said: “This is a very exciting and unique opportunity for us to collaborate with SMEs in the biotech sector to help them expand their R&D effort and develop new technologies and products.”

Prof Shareen Doak, Swansea University and CALIN director, said: “This initiative will strengthen our combined research base and create strong commercial foundations for life sciences, both regionally and globally.

“A key focus will be to support partnerships that will last beyond the term of the programme and create a legacy for the future wealth generation of network-linked SMEs.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic