New network to assist Irish and Welsh life science businesses to innovate

Posted: November 10, 2016

  • €12 million network includes six universities and global healthcare leaders Unilever 
  • GE Healthcare Network aims to assist 240 SMEs in Ireland and Wales

CALIN, a new €12 million life science network to assist Irish and Welsh businesses to innovate, has been announced by Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford.

CALIN (Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network) a collaborative programme led by Swansea University’s Medical School is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme.

CALIN aims to engage and assist over 240 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) throughout Ireland and Wales by offering open access to a unique strategic international partnership involving six world leading higher educational institutions and global healthcare leaders Unilever and GE Healthcare.

The six higher educational institutions are: University College Dublin; National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway); Tyndall National Institute; University College Cork, in Ireland; and Bangor University; Cardiff University and Swansea University, in Wales.

Through CALIN Welsh and Irish businesses will have access to a powerful knowledge base and technological infrastructure enabling accelerated innovation and access to a network of key stakeholders including those involved in supply chains, route-to-market and end-user healthcareproviders.

Pictured: Professor Ken Dawson, Director, Centre for BioNano Interactions, UCD School of Chemistry, and Irish CALIN co-ordinator

CALIN’s aim is to drive smart sustainable growth in advanced life sciences in both Ireland and Wales, by undertaking a large number of collaborative R&D projects, and through these generating new jobs and attracting investors into the cross-border regions.

The Welsh Government’s Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “Life science is a key sector in Wales and Ireland and this funding will support research and development, which is vital to the creation of new products, technology and jobs.

“It is excellent news for more than 240 small and medium-sized businesses and I’m delighted that expertise in the participating universities will be shared and used across both our countries.”

Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said: “The Ireland-Wales programme shows how EU funding can contribute to successful cross-border cooperation – in this case across our maritime border with the UK. The CALIN project is an excellent example of how it supports research and development in universities for the benefit of enterprises of all sizes, leading to new jobs and further investment in new technologies.

“This announcement shows funding under the Ireland-Wales programme is going ahead and that programme beneficiaries can plan for the future with confidence. The Irish Government strongly supports the programme and is committed to its successful implementation.”

All R&D activities will include a collaborative partnership between an SME and both an Irish and a Welsh university over a one- to three-year period depending on the nature of the development programme.

The network will offer R&D, technological development and innovation support to SMEs, which will drive the international competitiveness of both regions. Together the internationally recognised centres of excellence will foster long-term cross-border research and industrial partnerships, building a platform of excellence for wider interactions in Europe and beyond.

Professor Ken Dawson, Director, Centre for BioNano Interactions, UCD School of Chemistry, and Irish CALIN co-ordinator said: “This programme will allow University College Dublin to use our scientific knowledge and expertise in a practical way to support SMEs.

"This includes supporting new life science start-ups, many of whom currently experience the ‘valley of death’, as they try to progress from proof-of-concept to market. This funding will play a part in strengthening indigenous Irish and Welsh SMEs and their capacity to produce advanced products, with strong market potential, and increase the number of high-quality jobs."

Dr Paul Galvin, Head of ICT for Health Programmes at Tyndall National Institute said: "Collaboration is vital to innovation, and particularly in the life sciences sector. CALIN brings together the best of academic and industry co-operation accelerating innovative developments at the convergence of ICT and life sciences. 

“At Tyndall, we embrace opportunities to work with the most innovative life-science entrepreneurs and we are committed to driving progress and optimising the opportunity presented by this multi-million euro collaborative network."

Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director, Regenerative Medicine Institute, who leads the CALIN project at NUI Galway said: “This is a very exciting and unique opportunity for us to collaborate with SMEs in the biotech sector to help them expand their R&D effort and develop new technologies and products.”

Professor Shareen Doak, Swansea University and CALIN Director said: “This initiative will strengthen our combined research base and create strong commercial foundations for life sciences both regionally and globally.  A key focus will be to support partnerships that will last beyond the term of the programme and create a legacy for the future wealth generation of network-linked SMEs.”

Dr Stephen Barnwell, European Open Innovation Manager, Unilever, said: “CALIN will provide a unique opportunity for businesses to work with institutes across both Ireland and Wales. This pool of world-class expertise will promote exciting business opportunities by enabling engagement with a broad knowledge network offering combined research and innovation expertise. This is an exciting initiative, promising great benefits to the health and life science commercial sectors of both countries.”

By: Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations, with material from NovaUCD