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Collaborative research: Advancing science & boosting competitiveness

15 Nov 2017

In this blog, Karen McCallion in her role as Science Technology and innovation Manager outlines InterTradeIreland’s participation in and support of a number of international collaborative research programmes.

In her article she explains the rationale for this support, the opportunities for SMEs and researchers who want to get involved and the major successes to date.

US-Ireland R&D Partnership

The US-Ireland R&D Partnership is a tri-jurisdictional alliance between the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland, which was officially launched in 2006. Its aim is to promote collaborative innovative research projects which create value above and beyond individual efforts. Each jurisdiction is offered a unique opportunity to advance research interests and economic development in areas prioritised as Agriculture, Health, Nanoscale Science & Engineering, Sensors & Sensor Networks, Telecommunications, Energy & Sustainability.

Forty projects have been successfully funded through this initiative to date, resulting in a total investment of over £58million.

One of US Ireland R&D Partnership’s most recent awards is a £4.6m tripartite grant to tackle colorectal cancer. This provides a unique opportunity to bring together leading researchers from Queen’s University, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and GE Global Research Centre in the US in an interdisciplinary programme of research to develop new approaches to diagnose and treat the deadly disease.

Horizon 2020

InterTradeIreland also encourages cross border collaborative research through Horizon 2020. Collaborative research and innovation activities conducted on an international basis bring together resources and knowledge to enhance scientific excellence, achieving greater success in addressing problems and identifying efficiencies.

With both Northern Ireland and Ireland reaching their funding drawdown targets from the EU Framework Programme 7 (FP7), increased cross-border collaboration in the latter half of FP7 played an important part in achieving these targets. As a result of the structures and supports introduced by InterTradeIreland, the National Support Network in Ireland and the Northern Ireland Contact Point Network continued into the FP7 programme’s successor, Horizon 2020, to ensure full advantage is taken of the opportunities presented by North South collaboration.

“InterTradeIreland facilitates and assists the pursuit of North – South collaboration through a wide range of cross-border supports and co-ordinating activities. Within the first two years of the Horizon 2020 programme, North-South applications and drawdown has consequently doubled, compared to FP7. Despite BREXIT, it is important that this upwards momentum continues.” Aidan Gough, Director of Strategy & Policy, InterTradeIreland and Chair of the All-Island Steering Group for Horizon 2020.

Connected Health research in Ireland is of vital importance as advances in technology have the potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery and reduce the amount of time spent in hospitals. Horizon 2020 Connected Health projects have drawn down over €22 million.

One strand of research that Horizon 2020 focuses on is the effective integration of personalised medicine approaches into healthcare services and systems for the benefit of patients and citizens. This research aims to deliver cross-border solutions and better health for all.

A recent cross border Horizon 2020 success story is theMeaningful Integration of Data, Analytics and Services (MIDAS) project. Ulster University leads this multidisciplinary, international research programme using big data to transform healthcare policy across Europe. With funding of €4.5m, partners from all over the world, including Dublin City University and IBM Ireland, MIDAS will develop a digital platform for healthcare policy makers that will have the ability to engage with healthcare data which is currently both ‘unstructured’ and ‘unconnected’.

NI Cancer Trial Network and Cancer Trials Ireland

The sharing of cancer research data between jurisdictions is an area of cooperation identified in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (1998). Led by the late Professor Paddy Johnston of Queens University Belfast, the resulting All-island Cancer Consortium has supported many IE and NI cancer research nurse practitioners and researchers to share best practice with their US counterparts.

InterTradeIreland is aiming to further develop economic co-operation between the NI and IE jurisdictions in the health and life sciences sector by facilitating the collaboration of the NI Cancer Trial Network and Cancer Trials Ireland. This programme of collaboration is in its infancy, but InterTradeIreland’s workshop at the EAPM Congress, (10am, Wednesday 29th November), aims to showcase expert voices from government, academia, industry as well as patients who have taken part in cancer research trials, to discuss the opportunities and challenges of all-island cancer research. To attend this event, please visit our EventBrite page.

If you would like any further information please contact me on: +44 28 3083 4168 or

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