Northern Ireland’s healthtech expertise to spur growth in the Middle East
Covid-19 has completely transformed the healthcare sector – especially when it comes to the adoption of technology.
The global digital health market is expected to surpass $504.4bn by 2025, according to Global Market Insights.
Developments in the areas of AI, machine learning, robotics and big data have supported the growth of telehealth, virtual consultations and wearable healthtech, while also accelerating innovation within the pharma sector.
Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the UK, has emerged as a hub for research and innovation in the field of life and health sciences.
Swathi Sri, head of Territory at Northern Ireland’s regional economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) highlights why Northern Ireland is uniquely placed to provide technology solutions for the Middle East healthcare sector.
“Northern Ireland has cultivated a booming healthtech sector with a long history of innovation. Our two main universities – Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University rank among the top 10 in the UK for bioscience research. Added to this, we have more than 1,000 researchers working across a multitude of globally respected research centres with specialities ranging from cancer and nanotechnology through to biomedical science, health innovation and experimental medicine. Both universities are also closely linked to the healthtech sector – producing several successful companies that started as university spin-outs. Our industry leads the world in the areas of precision medicine, diagnostics, medtech and clinical trials,” she said.
A cluster of local startups, university spin-outs and supportive R&D programmes have established Belfast as one of the top 10 tech cities of the future, according to the FT’s fDi Intelligence.
Northern Ireland also has an industry body dedicated to advancing collaboration and innovation in life and health sciences – the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI). The organisation acts as a conduit between Northern Ireland’s life and health sciences sector and the international community, enabling partnerships, funding agreements and R&D.
Some of the standout businesses and rising industry stars, headquartered in Northern Ireland and adopting technology to shape the future of healthcare, include:
Sensoteq provides wireless condition monitoring systems that measure temperature and vibration, connecting machines to the internet and providing the intelligence needed to predict downtime, prevent early life failures, and improve overall device efficiency. Their products are essential to maintain the health of medical devices and have a range of applications.
Liopa, a spin-out from Queen’s University Belfast and The Centre for Security Technologies (CSIT), gives a voice to the voiceless with LipRead – its automated lip-reading technology. LipRead significantly increases the accuracy of video and media transcriptions – essential in the healthcare sector. Their second product, SRAVI, is an app which enables people to communicate with healthcare workers, or their friends and family while they cannot use their voice. Liopa’s products have a range of applications for chronic conditions and ICU admissions.
Axial3D is a medical technology firm working to transform patient outcomes while driving the global adoption of 3D printing within healthcare. They pivoted from the production of anatomical medical models to begin 3D printing ventilator valves, face shields and respiratory equipment that were in high demand as the health sector responded to the spread of the pandemic. The company’s vision is that 3D printing will become part of a clinician’s daily routine in assessing treatment pathways for their patients.
Neurovalens creates non-invasive neurostimulation products that treat global epidemics – insomnia, anxiety, diabetes and obesity. The company specialises in combining neuroscience and technology and has ongoing research collaborations with both Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and is one of the few companies to receive direct investment from the UK government, having sold 15,000 units globally.
Neurovalens’ devices are non-invasive, and are therefore low risk, low cost and effective as first line therapy, before the administration of medication.
A provider of precision medicine data analytics, software and service solutions, Diaceutics provides services to 36 of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Diaceutics has created commercially useful data sets for every precision medicine brought to market and has built the world’s largest repository of diagnostic testing data with a growing network of 2,500 labs in 51 countries.
Sonrai Analytics focuses on empowering precision medicine through AI innovation with a team of software engineers and data scientists. Their ability to cleanse, manage and analyse integrated data enables the company to support biotech and pharma in the search for new drug development and advanced research.
A major player in the in-vitro diagnostics industry, Randox – established over 35 years ago worked alongside German industrial giant Bosch to develop a new rapid test for Covid-19 in less than six weeks. It is one of the world’s first fully automated molecular diagnostic tests and can detect a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection in patients in under two and a half hours.
Kainosprovides digital technology solutions across the government, finance, and health sectors. The company has been supporting digital transformation in the healthcare sector for over 10 years, from creating a digital front door to the NHS with the NHS app, to developing flexible, regional platforms and digitalising hospitals through its open interoperability platforms.
Almac provides an extensive range of integrated services across the drug development lifecycle to the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally. Its services range from R&D, biomarker discovery, development and commercialisation, API manufacture, formulation development, clinical trial supply, , Interactive Response Technology (IRT) through to commercial-scale manufacture. Through their IRT and expert consultancy, Almac Clinical Technologies help the biopharmaceutical industry bring new therapies to those in need by empowering clinical trial sponsors to proactively manage sites, patients, and clinical trial supplies.
A specialist manufacturer of defibrillator and ECG electrodes, Intelesens develops wearable wireless vital signs-monitoring devices for use by hospital patients and outpatients. It has created a flexible partnership approach to developing, validating, and manufacturing bespoke defibrillation and ECG electrodes. The products work with a wide range of international clients, from start-up companies developing initial concept designs to contract production for well-established multinational providers.
An established supplier of laboratory information systems worldwide, Cirdan also operates offices in Canada and Australia. The company’s systems are currently improving efficiency and streamlining operations in clinical laboratories across six continents. Following the acquisition of Belfast-based Philips Digital and Computational Pathology business (formerly known as PathXL) in July 2020, Cirdan has added digital pathology education software to its product portfolio and enhanced its digital pathology and AI capabilities.
B-Secur is developing the next generation of biometric technology that uses a person’s heartbeat to uniquely identify them and provide medical grade health and wellness insights. Its patented software, HeartKey, is embedded into other technologies including smartwatches, car steering wheels – to detect driver fatigue, and even into clothing to help monitor workplace stress.
CV6 Therapeutics, is a drug development company working on the development of therapeutics that transform the effectiveness of the most widely used standard therapies, making them much more potent for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases. Their first oncology drug candidate, CV6-168 is clinic-ready and poised to enter first in-human clinical trials.
SiSaf is a commercial-stage drug development company that leverages its unique Bio-Courier technology to attain the full potential of therapeutic molecules. The company’s Bio-Courier platform is based on silicon, a natural element, which holds tremendous potential to transform drug development and help fulfil the promise of precision medicine.
“Northern Ireland’s healthtech and associated technology sector is primed for growth, with our fast-growing companies signing deals across the world, including in the Middle East,” said Swathi Sri.
“Their innovative solutions are making waves at a critical point and helping accelerate the pace of innovation within the healthcare sector as the industry manages the pandemic. Invest Northern Ireland will continue to work closely with all our companies to ensure their steady and sustained growth in the years ahead.”