The second MATRIX Life & Health Sciences Foresight Report suggests that there is a significant opportunity to grow Northern Ireland’s economy and address increasing health requirements if businesses, government and universities worked together more closely.
The life and health sciences sector, a fast growing area which covers diagnostics, data analytics, pharmaceuticals and e-health. Around 130 local businesses in the sector generate sales worth about £800m a year – 10% of all Northern Ireland exports. MATRIX suggests that Northern Ireland’s unique health and social care system and the newly implemented electronic care record system creates a so-called “living lab” environment which could be used to develop new drugs more quickly and act as a microcosm for the NHS and social services across the rest of the UK while providing better healthcare locally.
The report was launched at the Titanic Building this morning by DETI Minister Arlene Foster, DHSSPS Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and UK Life Sciences Minister George Freeman.
The report identifies the increasing need for more personalised healthcare (analysing an individual’s DNA to determine which drugs will be most effective) and the impact that the growing ageing population will have on the way healthcare is delivered. Cancer, dementia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are all set to rise over the next ten years, largely because people are living for longer. Earlier, more accurate diagnosis and better, more targeted treatments will not only save money in healthcare but will also improve quality of life.
The report argues that for the sector to fully develop its potential, there needs to be greater focus on local strengths in diagnostics, big data, clinical trials, data analytics and connected health. The report outlines a real opportunity for Northern Ireland to become a centre of excellence and attract foreign investment by investing in and supporting the sector, both in business and academia.
MATRIX Chairman Bryan Keating said:
“The MATRIX Life & Health Sciences Report has been produced by a panel of life and health science business leaders and academics who have worked hard to identify real opportunities for Northern Ireland’s economic development which could also offer better value and higher quality healthcare. This could not come at a better time given the current pressures in healthcare and I welcome the report and hope that it will help inform future health and economic strategy.
“We know that we need a more ‘joined up’ approach to maximise the potential of the life and health sciences in Northern Ireland and I am delighted to see that a pilot health, innovation and life sciences hub is about to be set up in Northern Ireland to do just that – this hub will draw heavily on the MATRIX report to validate its activities. ”
Speaking at the launch, DETI Minister Arlene Foster said:
“The recommendations of the foresight report will help to inform a Life & Health Sciences Strategy for Northern Ireland. This strategy will be jointly led by the Department of Enterprise and the Department of Health, and will have engagement right across the Northern Ireland Executive. It will set the context for a new health and prosperity agenda for the region as a whole for the next decade and beyond.
“But we have already shown that we have a joined up and well connected system across all the public, private and academic health spheres in this region. For example, Minister Freeman today had a breakfast meeting with leading figures from industry, economic development, health policy and the Chief Medical Officer. There are few regions of the UK, or indeed anywhere else, in which such a gathering of leaders can be so readily organised.”
The MATRIX Life & Health Sciences Panel
- Jim McLaughlin, Intelesens (Co-Chair)
- Robert Grundy, Almac (Co-Chair)
- Irwin Armstrong CIGA Healthcare
- Janice Bailie, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency
- Tony Bjourson UU
- Sean Donaghy, HSC Board
- Rebecca Di Maio, Heartsine
- Tom Gray, Kainos
- Stephen Kennedy, GSK
- Mary Jo Kurth, Randox
- Karen McCann, Colleges NI
- David McEneaney, Clinician
- Graham McGeown, QUB
- Noel McQuaid, James Leckey Design
- Neil Morgan, Innovate UK
- Chris Nugent, UU
- Margaret Patterson, AFBI
- Frances Weldon, QUB