Collaborative Partners: University of Ulster, Western Health and Social Care Trust and Derry~Londonderry City Council
Collaboration Type: Translational research and business development
Nation: Northern Ireland
Funding: Mix of regional and local funds
Summary: An R&D themed case study. The Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre is a three way collaboration between local government, industry and HEI to create and develop an internationally unique, translational and clinical research facility.

“It was a chance conversation about funding back in 2008 that sparked the idea”, says Eddie Friel, Head of Business Development at the University of Ulster.  The idea was to deliver an internationally unique translational and clinical research facility in the grounds of an acute hospital in Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland. C-TRIC (the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre) brings together academics, businesses and clinicians under one roof to bridge clinical need with world leading research and realise commercial opportunity.

“We developed the idea through a three-way partnership between the University, the local Western Health and Social Care Trust and Derry~Londonderry City Council. At the outset the concept of the facility, enabling streamlining of developments from the laboratory to the market place through a focused ‘bench to point of care’ approach, was a difficult one for funders to understand,” explains Eddie.

“The key turning point in securing funding was producing architect’s plans for an actual physical site. This enabled us to explain how staff would be co-located near the hospital, how ‘warm samples’ could be with researchers in minutes for analysis, where equipment and facilities would be housed and how businesses could be hosted.”

“The financial and in-kind support of the partners were essential to centre’s viability in the early years.” Eddie Friel

The tenacity of a core project team and support at the highest level in the partner organisations were essential to make the connections required, validate the concept, secure supporters and convince funders. The University’s world leading research in biomedical sciences, its connections and support from contacts at MIT and Partners Healthcare, a world leading bioscience initiative based in Boston, helped make the case. As did the reputation and attitude of the healthcare trust as one which is driving for excellence and innovation with a knowledge-based approach to achieving medical advances.

The team also saw the potential for C-TRIC to significantly contribute to regeneration in Derry~Londonderry and initial funding was secured with the support of Invest Northern Ireland and ILEX the local urban development company. C-TRIC now has multiple national and international projects with businesses who take advantage of being able to secure clinician involvement and academic input from the outset of their projects. “The early days, though, were a struggle financially” says Eddie “and with hindsight we would have sought start up costs (for staff, running costs and so on) as well as infrastructure funding – although there is a risk attached to asking for ‘too much’ when an idea is very new to potential funders. The financial and in-kind support of the partners were essential to centre’s viability in the early years.”

The centre is now a limited company with permanent staff and a management structure headed up by a CEO, Professor Maurice O’Kane, who is also the Head of Research at the healthcare trust, and Barry Henderson, C-TRIC’s Business Development Manager. Its board brings together senior decision makers from the University including Professor Tony Bjourson, Director of the University’s Biomedical Science Research Institute, the council, the healthcare trust and businesses and it has an international advisory group made up of world leading researchers and entrepreneurs which help to challenge and validate its excellence and standing and ensure international outreach.

C-TRIC is still growing as more businesses take advantage of this unique facility and the benefits to partners are now emerging – the University has secured more research income, the healthcare trust has secured new intellectual property, the hospital is attracting more high calibre staff and the council sees the centre as a beacon in the regeneration of the area. But the team are ambitious and believe real success will only be achieved when one of the major pharmaceutical companies decides to build a plant nearby.

Contact for Further Information:
Eddie Friel
Head of Business Development,
Office of Innovation, The University of Ulster
Ej.friel@ulster.ac.uk
Tel 02871675660

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