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Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced over £1million of funding for the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI).

HIRANI works closely with Northern Ireland’s two universities, public sector bodies and local industry to act as one voice to enable the life and health sciences sector to collectively promote and strategically position itself both nationally and internationally.

The Minister said: “Our life and health sciences sector has experienced significant growth in recent years, employing over 8,500 people. Covid-19 has further emphasised the importance of collaboration between researchers, industry, health and government. As a result, it has been identified as a priority sector in my economic recovery plan, ‘Rebuilding a Stronger Economy’. The growth of HIRANI will drive collaboration between these bodies, as we look to the healthcare sector to form a key pillar to improve health and drive economic recovery.

“I would like to welcome Joann Rhodes to her new position as CEO of HIRANI. Northern Ireland has key strengths, which through Joann and HIRANI’s advocacy can align to attract new investment and create economic growth and employment opportunities.”

Invest Northern Ireland has offered HIRANI £765,000 of support over the next three years; with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University collectively offering £300,000. This operating support will assist it to employ key staff and fund core activities to drive forward its collaborative work across the sector. HIRANI is also supported by the Department of Health, the Department for the Economy and Health and Social Care Research and Development Division.

Since her appointment, Joann Rhodes and the HIRANI team have worked closely with Invest NI on numerous regional grants and commercial opportunities in areas such as Precision Medicine, Med Tech and Diagnostics. This work has included establishing more formal links with other health clusters in the UK, EU and US.

She said: “Since moving to Northern Ireland, I have been impressed with the expertise, knowledge and people in this sector here. As we emerge from this pandemic, harnessing this potential and better aligning these strengths with opportunities and investment, can solve global challenges in diagnostics, connected health and clinical trials. This will unlock economic prosperity, enable better health prospects for citizens and further health and life sciences as one of Northern Ireland’s leading industries.”

CEO of Invest NI, Kevin Holland said: “Northern Ireland possesses world-class expertise in precision medicine, digital and connected health, data analytics and clinical trials. These strengths can be exploited to grow indigenous companies and to attract companies wishing to expand into the UK and Europe. HIRANI will provide the vital leadership the sector needs to help build on the extensive progress already made. We look forward to working closely together to develop the research, clinical and commercial sectors.”