Northern Ireland to benefit from world renowned R&D investment – Hamilton

Date published: 11 February 2016


Health Minister Simon Hamilton today published the new research and development (R&D) strategy for the Health and Social Care (HSC) sector.

With investment of over £10million annually, the new strategy aims to enhance the health, wellbeing and prosperity of people in Northern Ireland through world renowned research and development.

During his visit to meet the staff at Northern Ireland Regional Virus Laboratory and HSC Innovations at the Royal Victoria Hospital the Minister commented: “The priority I give to R&D and innovation in the public sector generally and the health sector specifically is no secret and I want to congratulate the staff at the Regional Virus Laboratory and HSC Innovations for the work they have carried out recently in developing and licensing a rapid test for a severe form of bacterial meningitis. There is no doubt that this research has the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality by facilitating early diagnosis and treatment.

“It is particularly appropriate therefore that I am announcing the launch of the new Health and Social Care Research and Development strategy during my visit today.”

Outlining his priorities for research funding in the coming years the Minister said: “Northern Ireland is internationally acknowledged as a leader in many areas of health and healthcare related research.

“We only have to look at recent advances in research into the treatment of pancreatic cancer and cystic fibrosis as examples. Northern Ireland researchers also lead many clinical intervention trials in critical care and ophthalmology and our expertise in nutrition and food research is widely acknowledged.

“Recognition of Northern Ireland as a centre of excellence for research into precision medicine across the UK also enhances our standing while the innovative work of the Northern Ireland Genomic Medicine Centre will continue to build our reputation internationally.”

The strategy aims to build on the success of its predecessor, strengthening links between research and better policy making, increasing success in competing for additional funding, enhancing our research infrastructure and effectively communicating the findings.
Independent evaluation of the impact of previous investment in this area has highlighted significant benefits, including:

· An estimated £4.14 additional funding attracted to research per £1 of HSC R&D funding allocated;
· Support of 1.3 jobs per project funded;
· high quality peer reviewed publications;
· high quality posts secured by clinical and academic research staff;
· creating opportunities to attract additional funding through direct partnerships with other funders.

The Minister continued: “I welcome the strong emphasis on innovation throughout the strategy, for example in support of the establishment of a Northern Ireland Health Innovation and Life Sciences Hub and equally support being given to key national initiatives such as the 100,000 Genomes Project. This is why I have used today’s visit to the Health and Social Care Innovations Service at the RVH to make this announcement.

“This new strategy will enable our researchers to continue to develop novel diagnostics, treatments and care pathways that will bring benefits to patients and service users across Northern Ireland.”

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency (PHA), attending the launch, commented: “I am delighted to see this innovative example of how support from the PHA’s HSC Research and Development Division can help transform and save lives. With the possibility of earlier diagnoses comes the ability to start much earlier vital interventions in treating people which will undoubtedly help contribute to a much healthier population.

“We are fully committed to supporting research throughout health and social care and look forward to seeing further innovations come to fruition as the PHA begins to deliver the strategy’s implementation plan."

Notes to editors: 

  1. Research for Better Health and Social Care (2016-2025) and the related Implementation Plan can be obtained via the following online.
  2. The research and development strategy aims to build on the success of its predecessor, with a key objective of promoting research and innovation. The new strategy also aims to strengthen the link between research and better policy making, increasing success in competing for funding, enhancing our research infrastructure and effectively communicating research findings, while recognising and celebrating success and achievement.
  3. 100,000 Genomes Project - The 100,000 Genomes Project will sequence 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 people. Participants are NHS patients with a rare disease, plus their families, and patients with cancer. The aim is to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS – transforming the way people are cared for. Patients may be offered a diagnosis where there wasn’t one before. In time, there is the potential of new and more effective treatments. In October, Northern Ireland became the first Devolved Nation to participate in the project.
  4. Northern Ireland Health Innovation and Life Sciences Hub - The Northern Ireland Executive Economy and Jobs Initiative Task and Finish Group, and subsequently the 2015 MATRIX Life & Health Sciences Foresight report, recommended the establishment of a Health Innovation and Life Sciences Hub (HILS Hub) to co-ordinate and drive individual projects and programmes coming out of an overall agreed Life & Health Sciences strategy. Plans are proceeding to scope the proposed HILS Hub, which would act as a central hub for sustainable and effective interaction between the various spokes (research and innovation centres) in the HSC, the private sector, academia and the various economic development agencies.
  5. Evidence of the impact the HSC Research and Development fund in Northern Ireland was collated in 2012 through an independent assessment carried out by McClure Watters. The report is available online.
  6. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number on 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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