Northern Ireland

Greater all-island cooperation on cancer research could be ‘transformational’ for health and economy

A new report from the All-Island Cancer Research Institute has set out how greater cooperation could attract major investment and improve health outcomes on both sides of the border.

The cancer research sector across the island of Ireland could be greatly enhanced as well as creating more high value jobs with better cooperation, a new report has said.
The cancer research sector across the island of Ireland could be greatly enhanced as well as creating more high value jobs with better cooperation, a new report has said.

AN all-island health report has called for the creation of an “Oncology Innovation Cluster” to pool expertise and resources in cancer research.

The report from the All Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) set out the current state of the oncology industry on both sides of the Irish border and how better cooperation could be “transformative” as well as driving economic investment.

Stormont’s Economy Minister Conor Murphy and the Irish Trade Minister Dara Calleary are officially launching the report on Wednesday morning at a cancer workshop in Dublin.

Welcoming the findings, Mr Murphy said: “Enhanced all-island clusters in areas such as life and health sciences are critical to my own vision for the economy. I intend to make the most of all-island economic co-operation, and the north’s unique dual market access, to improve productivity, create good jobs, address regional economic imbalance, and maximise our net zero economy.”

Mr Calleary called the report “an invaluable source of intelligence” on the oncology and digital health economic sectors across Ireland.

Mark Lawler is Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast, as well as co-lead of AICRI.

“We have a huge opportunity here to deliver something truly transformational on the island of Ireland, through a cross-border approach that enhances both the health and wealth of our citizens and society,” he said.

“Cancer knows no borders. Current initiatives such as the Future Medicines Institute and Momentum One Zero, and the All-Island Oncology Innovation Cluster proposed in this report can be game changers, driving innovation and acting as magnets to attract foreign investment to this island.”

Northern Ireland is described in the report as having “a thriving indigenous sector” that focuses on diagnostics and digital enterprises.

There is also a higher proportion of university spin-outs, with mention of how investments through the Belfast Region City Deal could be transformative.

The Republic is said to have a high concentration of large multinationals, focusing on drug manufacturing and digital health, complimented by a strong research ecosystem.

Creating an All-Island Oncology Innovation Cluster would “fast-track the delivery of new business opportunities” where academia and industry overlap, improve all-island and international cooperation as well as creating high value jobs and attracting investment on both sides of the border.

William Gallagher, Professor of Cancer Biology at University College Dublin, said it would enhance the vibrant but “fragmented” sector in the life sciences.

He added that the oncology and digital health sectors had already been booming since the 1990s.

“The global cumulative revenue of all companies operating on the island of Ireland which offer oncology and allied digital health products and services, reached just under €2.4 trillion in 2022. It is projected to soar to over €10.7 trillion by 2032, a rise of 346%,” he said.