Ireland’s life sciences landscape comprises both multinationals that continue to invest here and a very active indigenous life sciences community. The highly skilled labour force and advantageous grant and funding supports available through the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other agencies make Ireland highly competitive in the European context. What can Ireland do to further strengthen its position as a global leader in Life Sciences?

Several innovative Irish businesses, such as Inflazome and LetsGetChecked, have attracted international investment in recent years, while the start-up space and university incubators are constantly evolving and growing. Successful shareholder exits have contributed to the creation of the next generation of innovators, with an expanding network of private investors and mentors supporting the sector’s development.

From an inward investment perspective, multinationals view Ireland as a compelling venue for several reasons. Many international players have a long-standing presence operating here, and there are numerous examples of further investment being committed to broaden the activities being undertaken here and to move further up the value chain. Medtronic’s recent announcement of 200 new R&D-related roles in Galway is a great example of an investment of this nature.

What sectors are capitalising on government RD&I investment?

There has been a real step change in the life sciences sector recently and we are seeing major shifts in the translation of what would have been niche technologies only a few years ago to mainstream manufacturing.

This is most evident in the application of advanced digitisation, automation and AI across the pharma and biopharma sectors. Ireland has also seen the emergence of sector-leading digital manufacturing sites being developed on our shores, kickstarted by the country’s national incentives framework.

Companies across the life sciences sector, in both pharma and medical devices, are investing heavily in innovative approaches to sustainability. We have seen real-world examples where pharma companies are moving to synthesis pathways that produce less waste and assessing alternative suppliers of materials to reduce supply chain carbon outlay.

SMEs & R&D

In a broader sense, climate action and digital transformation will present both key challenges and opportunities in the future, evidenced by increased focus within Horizon Europe and Ireland's Impact 2030 RD&I agenda.

Ireland’s SME sector has been the stronghold in developing disruptive technologies – such as wearable medical devices, remote diagnostics, bespoke approaches to cell engineering, genomics, and developing AI to enable high cadence drug development.

Our life sciences SMEs have traditionally shown great success in leveraging Enterprise Ireland & EU funding and translating this to market-ready products and services.

How can Ireland become a global innovation leader?

Ireland’s innovation ecosystem is powered by developing robust interdisciplinary research centres, that have a critical link between academia and industry. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centres across the country are a great example. However, to take the next step Ireland should focus on creating research centres that target the higher technology readiness level (TRL) scale projects and lean towards the industry end of the spectrum.

This creates, retains, and attracts talented scientists and engineers, the most important lever to innovation. In saying that, we have seen growth in the re-location of R&D operations to Ireland, especially around manufacturing innovation within pharma and biopharma multinationals.

Supporting indigenous sectors

We must maximise Irish engagement in Horizon Europe and take a leading role as project coordinators. Supporting our indigenous micro and SME sectors is critical to sustaining and improving our innovation landscape.

We need to continue to improve our support infrastructure for SMEs to bridge the “valley of death”, something we have focussed on upon recently. We dropped four places in the Global innovation index in 2021, mainly related to knowledge and technology outputs. Supporting knowledge creation will bolster Ireland as a global innovation leader – enhancements to the KDB regime will be an important lever.

Get in touch

The pace of change is challenging leaders like never before. If you are a life sciences business operating in Ireland and have any queries on R&D incentives, please contact our team below. We'd be delighted to hear from you.

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