Minister encourages growth of life sciences sector


Minister Arlene Foster pictured with Elizabeth Surkovic, Office for Life Sciences; Albert Sherrard, Biobusiness and Donal Durkan, Director, Invest NI, at the UK Life Sciences Roadshow event hosted by Invest NI in Belfast.

Copyright, John Harrison Photography.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has urged the local life sciences sector to work in partnership with industry, clinicians and academia across the UK to maximise growth.

The Minister was addressing key influencers and stakeholders at the UK Life Sciences Roadshow event, hosted by Invest Northern Ireland in Belfast. Over the last year, the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) has published and commenced rapid implementation of a comprehensive and ambitious set of actions to transform the UK operating environment for life sciences. Roadshows are being held across the UK to profile activities and engage with the industry.

The Minister said: “The local life sciences sector is dynamic, innovative and, importantly, highly respected internationally. Business people, clinicians, academics and government have worked together to build this into an industry of which we can be extremely proud.

“It employs 4,100 highly skilled people in Northern Ireland, generates a turnover of approximately £400million and delivers major advances in healthcare for society.

“By working together with partners across the UK through the Office for Life Sciences, we now have an opportunity to shape the future of the sector, profile it globally and ensure it continues to flourish and maximise its economic potential.

“Invest NI and Matrix, the Northern Ireland Science and Industry Panel, identified life sciences as a priority sector that can encourage innovation, stimulate R&D and drive a shift in sectoral focus towards high-value economic activity.

“A Life Sciences Blueprint of actions was published in July 2009 by the OLS including actions on how the sector’s capability should be marketed. The input of local businesses will be crucial if we are to facilitate collaborations and knowledge sharing, and encourage the world to take a closer look at our strong skills base and knowledge infrastructure.”

More than 60 companies work in the sector across NI, covering activities ranging from drug discovery, clinical trials, medical device diagnostics, biotechnology and systems biology. This work is complemented by a highly advanced research base undertaken both by industry as well as local universities, further and higher education colleges and other research institutions. Key areas of research include: cancer; diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition.