Derry to be at forefront of EU-funded life sciences 'super cluster'

INITIATIVE: Celebrating the €8.5m funding award for the North West Advanced Manufacturing project are, from left, Dr Norman Apsley, chief executive of Catalyst Inc; Gina McIntyre, chief executive of SEUPB; and Philip Maguire, director of finance and administration with Catalyst Inc PICTURE: Michael Cooper

DERRY is to be at the forefront of a cross-border ‘super cluster' in the health and life sciences, bringing together researchers to develop innovative new technologies within the sector.

Helped by more than £7 million of European funding - a money stream which could dry up after Brexit - the ‘North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing' project will be led by Catalyst Inc at the city's Science Park at Bay Road.

It will support eight different key health & life sciences companies involved in 15 different research projects based in the north west to develop new products and processes.

The project aims to enhance the level of cross-border research and innovation collaboration within the area of applied advanced manufacturing. It will also significantly increase the number of health & life science businesses engaged in commercially focused research in order to make them more competitive.

The initiative will bring together a number of partners in the creation of a new ‘super cluster' including the Engineering Research Institute at Ulster University, the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre at Glasgow University, the PEM Centre at Sligo Institute of Technology and the CoLab facility at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

A total of 26 PhD level researchers, along with post-doctoral research assistants, will be recruited over the life time of the project, to work with the eight participating companies, and create up to 98.5 years' worth of PhD full time equivalent research.

The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), a north/south implementation body backed by government departments in Belfast and Dublin, has offered funding of €8.5 million (£7.3m) from the EU's Interreg VA Programme for the creation of the cluster.

Match-funding has been provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Dublin, the Department for the Economy in the north, and the University of Glasgow.

SEUPB chief executive Gina McIntyre said: “This project will make a real impact in terms of providing support for a business sector with strong economic potential. The research produced will be used to strengthen the economic outlook of businesses on a cross-border basis.

“This is one of the core objectives of the Interreg VA Programme which has been specifically designed to enhance the levels of research and innovation found within businesses across the region,” she continued.

The Interreg VA Programme has set aside €283 million (£243m) to address the economic and social problems which result from the existence of borders.

A spokesman for the Department for the Economy said: “Investment in research and development is critical to future economic growth. Strong collaboration between industry and academia will also contribute to success.

"The creation of this new super-cluster is a welcome development for the health and life sciences sector and a boost for the north west border region.”

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