£2 million healthcare project to benefit economy

Economy Minister Nigel Dodds today announced the creation of a £2million research and development facility at Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry.

The Academic Business Clinical Research Innovation Facility (ABC – RIF) will be the first of its type in Northern Ireland. It will deliver major economic and healthcare benefits by providing locally based health and life sciences companies, university researchers and hospital clinicians with access to state of the art research facilities and clinical data.

It will facilitate the rapid development of leading edge products and treatments, and increase the numbers of spin out firms, in addition to improving patient care and hospital treatment. An increased number of patent applications, joint ventures and R&D licences are expected to result from this.

Commenting on the investment, the Minister said: “By encouraging collaboration between Western Trust staff at Altnagelvin Hospital and the University of Ulster, this project will accelerate the number of commercial opportunities for established firms and new businesses.

“By sharing knowledge, cutting edge products and treatments can be brought to market, ensuring that local firms are at the forefront of R&D in the growing health and life sciences sector. Not only will this project deliver significant economic benefits, but it will profile the quality of this region’s knowledge infrastructure and ability to compete in global medical technology markets. It will also ensure continued improvement in patient care.”

The Minister added: “This investment will also play a key role in the ongoing development of the North West Business & Technology Zone and the investment promotion and business development efforts of Invest NI and Derry City Council.

The project will be managed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust in partnership with the University of Ulster and Derry City Council.

Invest NI is administering £1.3 million of European Union support on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body under the INTERREG IIIa Programme. It is also administering a further £464,000 through the Integrated Development Fund (IDF). IIex which has a coordinating role for the package of local IDF supported projects, views the project as an important element of its work in regenerating the City of Derry.

Gerard Guckian, Chairman, Western Health and Social Care Trust said: “For the first time the Western Trust will have dedicated space devoted to clinical research. This will allow us to build upon its existing research capacity and to expand the range and volume of research activity within the Trust in conjunction with our partners.

“Clinical Research is important for any healthcare organisation because it increases our understanding of illness and leads to the development of better treatments. ABC RIF is a great example of partnership working between the Western Trust, the University of Ulster, Invest Northern Ireland and Derry City Council.”

Professor Bernie Hannigan, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Ulster said: “The ABC facility will be a shining example of what can be achieved when partners have a common goal and work together with mutual trust. Ultimately the beneficiaries will be the population of the Western Trust's area. Clinically-focused research provides solutions to healthcare needs, and innovative business practices deliver the solutions to people."

Contractors are due to be onsite by the end of February 2008 and the building is due to be completed in September 2008.