Invest NI Supporting Biotech Revolution

Biotechnology is set to revolutionise the world in the same as way as the Internet did, says Invest Northern Ireland’s Chief Executive, Leslie Morrison. Mr Morrison was one of the speakers at the major three-day conference on biotechnology, BioIreland, which took place last week in Dublin.

Addressing an international audience, Mr Morrison highlighted the ground-breaking research in the field of biotechnology and life sciences that is currently being undertaken by researchers in Northern Ireland’s universities and companies, and outlined the range of support available to help turn the research into commercial applications.

“One of Invest NI’s tasks is to create mechanisms to help commercialise the research in our universities, in other words, to turn research into revenue. We have a number of programmes that support this kind of technology transfer, such as our Proof of Concept fund, and our START and COMPETE programmes.

“Having consulted widely with local stakeholders and international experts working within the field of life sciences, Invest NI has designated cancer biotech and medical devices as priority areas for support. We are currently working with local companies that are leaders in these fields, as well as providing support for the creation of new spin-out companies from the local universities.”

BioIreland 2006 was the third all-island biotechnology conference and attracted delegates from around the world including representatives from NASA and the University of Helsinki. The conference highlighted the growing opportunities in Ireland for human health, agriculture, industry and the economy from biotechnology and its related industries.

Other guest speakers from Northern Ireland were Professor Bernie Hannigan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Development, University of Ulster, Dr Peter Fitzgerald of Randox Laboratories and Philip Diamond of Almac Sciences. Fusion Antibodies were exhibitors at the conference.

“The UK has nearly twice as many products in clinical trials as our nearest European competitors and aims to be a global leader in this field, second in size and achievement only to the US. Northern Ireland is emerging as an important contributor to this ambitious goal,” said Mr Morrison.

“One of Northern Ireland’s strengths is its small size because that means companies can readily access university expertise, and academic disciplines can effectively collaborate to maximise the potential of individual technologies. We want to encourage more businesses to take advantage of this.”