Minister Higgins announces €7m funding for BioInnovate Ireland at University of Galway

Ian Quinn Centre for Health Technology Innovation formally launched at University of Galway in honour of pioneering medtech entrepreneur

BioInnovate programme forms part of Government of Ireland Innovators’ Initiative and will create opportunities to identify solutions to unmet clinical needs

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Emer Higgins T.D. has today announced €7 million funding, over the next six years, for University of Galway’s flagship BioInnovate fellowship programme, the only European affiliate of Stanford BioDesign.

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Emer Higgins T.D. and University of Galway President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. Credit - Andrew Downes, Xposure.

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Emer Higgins T.D. and University of Galway President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. Credit - Andrew Downes, Xposure.

The announcement coincides with the official launch of the Ian Quinn Centre for Health Technology Innovation, on the University campus, named in honour of the late Ian Quinn who was central in establishing Galway as a global medtech hub.

BioInnovate Ireland is one of four programmes under the Government of Ireland Innovators’ Initiative and co-funded by the EU under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and administered by Enterprise Ireland. It was initially established in 2011 with the aim of anchoring the medical device sector in Ireland by educating and training future entrepreneurs. To date the programme has trained 150 Fellows and led to 33 companies - 23 of which are high potential start-ups.

The Ian Quinn Centre will build on the success of the BioInnovate programme and the wider medtech and digital health community by providing co-working space, mentorship and global connections to emerging start-ups, as well as being a venue for industry, clinicians and campus-based innovators to come together and accelerate health technologies. 

Speaking at the annual BioInnovate Ireland Symposium at University of Galway Minister Higgins said: “BioInnovate Ireland is a remarkable programme and a huge inspiration for Ireland’s innovation ecosystem. Its success to date in terms of entrepreneurship, indigenous business creation and answering healthcare needs, is testament to those who brought the concept to Ireland, and to University of Galway for hosting the fellowship programme. The new, six-year, €7 million funding from Government and the European Regional Development Fund will empower those who have the foresight to conceive healthcare and treatment solutions for patients, while also embedding the fellowship even further with the best international practice, talent development and business creation mentorship for medtech in the west of Ireland and beyond.”

  Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of University of Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this significant funding allocation, and it is apt that it coincides with the launch of the Ian Quinn Centre for Health Technology Innovation. This dual announcement represents a pivotal moment for University of Galway and a significant step forward in our journey to further advance healthcare innovation. We are grateful for the generous contribution from Chip Hance, which has made it possible to initiate the Ian Quinn Centre. His support, alongside support from others in the community, underscores the importance of our work for the public good and for fostering innovation which will greatly benefit future medtech solutions and development, both here in Galway and globally.”

Marina Donohoe, Head of Research and Innovation at Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting the development of Irish-owned companies on their journey to achieving their global ambition. A really important element of this is helping to foster the development of Irish innovators who are driving transformation around the world, and programmes like BioInnovate and facilities like the Ian Quinn Centre are key to that. Ireland has established a reputation as being a global leader in healthcare innovation, and this funding will help to further build out that pipeline of talented innovators. Enterprise Ireland has been proud to support this project since its inception, and we wish everyone involved continued success.”

Robert (Chip) Hance, a veteran of cardiovascular, diabetes and diagnostics devices, chief executive of Regatta Medical, and long-time colleague of the late Ian Quinn, said: “Ian Quinn was not just a visionary leader, but also a cherished friend and colleague whose dedication to healthcare innovation was unparalleled. He recognised the pivotal role of the BioInnovate Ireland programme within the broader ecosystem of Ireland's device industry, envisioning its potential to evolve and expand with a significant indigenous emphasis. Naming this centre in his honour is a fitting tribute. It is poised to inspire future entrepreneurs to carry forward his legacy as we move into a golden age of medical device innovation that will transform healthcare and change the face of medicine.”

Teresa Hooks, Programme Executive with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, the ERDF Managing Authority, said: "BioInnovate Ireland is funded under the Innovators Initiative scheme, which is included in the Northern and Western Regional Programme and is another positive example of EU funding helping to develop a smarter more competitive region. The objective of the Innovators Initiative scheme is closely aligned to the priorities of our ERDF Programme and Ireland’s Smart Specialisation Strategy and will train more than 70 participants in our region. They will observe and identify commercial opportunities, with the aim of developing high potential start-ups, directly contributing to job creation in the region.”

The Ian Quinn Centre for Health Technology Innovation at University of Galway will build on the success of BioInnovate since its inception, by becoming a new home for the fellowship programme. It will be a hub of innovation, focused on driving transformative change in the healthcare sector. It will have a strong focus on emerging medical technologies and digital health and it will also be open to industry and clinicians outside of the fellowship programme, providing space to spark and grow innovations and ultimately becoming a destination of choice in Europe for innovators, industry and investors.

Ian Quinn was a visionary in medical device design and innovation. He founded Creganna with his brother, where he served as chief executive for 25 years. Having witnessed the decline of the IT hardware industry and other industries in Ireland, Ian Quinn set about ensuring that the medical device industry would not suffer the same fate.

Following a visit to Stanford BioDesign, Ian Quinn was involved in the foundation of BioInnovate Ireland, along with Professor Mark Bruzzi, bringing the BioDesign model to Ireland, with the aim of creating a fellowship programme to educate and train innovators. More than a decade later, Ireland has become a global hub for medtech and digital health, with more than 450 companies, of which, more than 200 are homegrown.

One in 8 Irish medtech companies have come from fellowships at BioInnovate Ireland.

The programme takes in 12 fellows a year on a 10-month specialist, medical device innovation. It combines teams of high-calibre, experienced fellows from medical, engineering, business and technical backgrounds whose aim is to discover unmet clinical needs and align them with market opportunities. The fellows are rigorously selected to contribute their skills, knowledge and expertise as part of multi-disciplinary teams. During the programme they are awarded a scholarship and focus on one specific clinical area, and receive mentorship from industry, clinicians, venture capitalists, domain experts and academics. The Fellowship teams perform their clinical immersion phase at hospitals in Galway and nationwide.