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Professor Emma Flynn

Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Queen’s University Belfast

Northern Ireland is increasingly emerging as an attractive place for investment in the life and health sciences sector thanks to a combination of factors including skills availability, excellent infrastructure, cost-effectiveness and a supportive business environment.

The thriving life sciences industry encompassing pharmaceutical industry, medicines manufacturing and healthcare activity supports 18,000 full-time jobs throughout Northern Ireland. According to the latest Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency data, life sciences is now the joint second-biggest spender on R&D in Northern Ireland alongside the machine industry, investing £74 million in 2018.

Research and innovation expertise

This is driven by the globally competitive research and innovation expertise offered by the region’s two major universities, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.

Northern Ireland possesses world-class expertise in precision medicine, food security, digital and connected health, data analytics, pharmacy and clinical trials. In May 2022, Queen’s ranked first in the United Kingdom for its research in Food and Veterinary Sciences and forth in UK for Health and biomedical Sciences in a major UK wide review of Higher Education research (Research Excellence Framework 2021).

Life sciences is now the joint second-biggest spender on R&D in Northern Ireland.

Belfast region city deal

Queen’s University is leading innovation through the Belfast Region City Deal, an ambitious £1 billion project of transformative co-investment which will deliver more than 20 ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new, and better, jobs and help make the region a global investment destination over the next decade – in 2030 and beyond.

As part of this, The Institute for Research Excellence in advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH), based at Queen’s, will be an extension, expansion and integration of current healthcare facilities, committed to establishing research excellence in Advanced Clinical Healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Collaborations for growth

By bringing together academic, industry, NHS and government stakeholders, there is a now a once in a generation opportunity to combine the possibilities of major capital investment, world leading medicine and life sciences research, with the priorities and expertise of global life sciences companies, to transform the lives and livelihoods of people, across these islands and across the world. Together, in partnership, this opportunity can be realised.

Queen’s is also successful in translating research into commercial success. In 2019 and 2020 Queen’s ranked #1 for Entrepreneurial Impact in an independent report. Several successful life sciences spinout companies are emerging from Queen’s with the support of QUBIS, the commercialisation arm of the university. These companies are now scaling up their activities, tackling global markets and addressing real-world societal needs.

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