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Bringing South Dublin’s life science opportunity to life

Spear Street Capital launches new cluster strategy for The Campus Cherrywood, catering for life science startups, scaleups, corporates, training and research organisations

Ireland has a unique opportunity to build on its life science reputation garnered through 50+ years of FDI related pharma and medical device manufacturing. The reasons for Ireland’s success in life sciences are multi-faceted, and involve a broad alignment between collaborative stakeholders. The access to a well-educated and highly motivated workforce is at the core of Ireland’s value proposition. In addition, Ireland’s EU membership and excellent regulatory regime, provides a high level of certainty for investors. This is underpinned by a network of global leaders in engineering and sub-supply services, which has created a legacy and track record that attracts repeat investment over many decades.

The opportunity today for Ireland in life science lies not only in continuing to expand this FDI activity into new areas like implantable sensors or cell & gene therapies, but also in the nurturing of our homegrown startups and scaleups. This is more than an opportunity that we have a choice to grasp or not - it's an economic development imperative.

Ireland must leverage the density of global life science companies here in the same way that the presence of digital MNCs has led to the formation of fast-growing tech businesses in all corners of the country. The presence of Google and Apple, and the domestic entrepreneurs they have spawned, has triggered the formation of a new wave of Irish digital success stories, from Intercom to Fenergo to Workhuman. There is no reason why this 'brains trust' effect shouldn't also happen in life science.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic can be felt across the workplace, the supply chain and indeed politically. While some industries had to hibernate in order to survive, life science kicked into new gears in response to the emergency, driven by remarkable innovation and agility.


SSC is investing in much-needed innovation infrastructure for life science startups

This spirit of innovation and agility is what Spear Street Capital (SSC) is looking to foster at The Campus Cherrywood. SSC is an owner and operator of distinctive properties located in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is investing in next generation innovation infrastructure to provide a world leading life science facility for Irish startups and scaleups. This is in keeping with their innovation-led real estate cluster strategies in Boston (life science), Toronto (AI), and San Francisco (digital manufacturing).

In Cherrywood, SSC is investing in much-needed innovation infrastructure for life science startups (in the form of ‘pay-as-you-go’ wet labs), and bringing a world leading life science incubation and acceleration platform in the form of We Are Pioneer Group (formerly BioCity) in as operating partner. This collaboration between specialist innovation space investors/developers and world class life science innovation platform operators, has been a strong emerging theme globally over the last few years, and this is its first manifestation in Ireland.

We Are Pioneer Group (WAPG) and The Campus Cherrywood generally, will build on the presence of leading life science companies already on site, such as APC, Genuity & Zoetis. WAPG, is a world-leading innovation platform for life sciences businesses and has 12 locations across the UK, where it caters for 650 businesses. WAPG will anchor the new cluster, linking client businesses in The Campus Cherrywood to hundreds of other life science companies, mentors, investors and partners throughout the WAPG network.

The WAPG operation will consist of 30,000 sq ft of shared and private wet labs and offices in a bespoke building fitted out by Spear Street. The facility will house four medium scale laboratories, 11 starter laboratories and nine associated office/write-up space units, catering for approximately 15 to 20 life science companies of varying sizes, and maturity and accommodating over 100 new life science R&D jobs.

Dublin's young talent base makes The Campus Cherrywood an attractive location for the life science sector

Alongside these starter and medium scale high specification wet labs, will be another ‘co-working’ lab where individual benches can be rented by entrepreneurs and researchers on a month-to-month basis. The new high-end wet labs of varying scales will be available to entrepreneurs, researchers, startups, scaleups and corporate teams, on a flexible lease basis, obviating the need for investment in expensive lab space for early stage companies in particular.

There are also plans to establish a dedicated lab for the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research & Training (NIBRT), a collaboration between UCD, Trinity College and DCU amongst others. NIBRT is a recognised global centre of excellence and are in advanced discussions to establish a lab operation at The Campus Cherrywood, to accommodate and facilitate their growing cohort of principal investigators and corporate R&D projects. The facility also affords NIBRT the opportunity to engage with and assist early stage and scaling Irish life science companies.

The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, a national network of over 400 Irish academic data analytics experts, with a keen focus on life science and health data, will also establish a footprint to showcase its research and collaboration with industry in the area of ‘Augmented Human’ at the intersection between data analytics and life science.

Dublin’s young talent base makes The Campus Cherrywood an attractive location for the life science sector. A recent report by US-based analytics company Terrain Advisors showed Dublin sixth best of 20 European cities for life sciences to locate in, with one of the youngest talent pools available. This new project further validates Dublin on the life sciences map, but also crucially focuses on supporting indigenous life science businesses alongside FDI.

The WAPG facility itself will act as an incubator building for high potential Irish life science businesses. WAPG will also run regular accelerator and venture building programmes for Irish and international life sciences startups, helping to bring innovations ‘from bench to bedside’, and connecting startups to investors, mentors, partners and to life science multinationals.

Having access to ‘pay-as-you-go’ lab facilities and business support services from a world-class operator is a huge advantage to life science startups. This model currently does not exist in Ireland, which is currently an impediment to the growth of local life science businesses in Ireland.

A recent study by Nottingham Trent University Business School found that UK biotechnology incubators play an important role in supporting new life science companies. Furthermore, according to the 'UK life science start-up' survey, over 75 per cent of the total UK national activity of new life science companies is located in a city with a biotechnology incubator.

The Campus Cherrywood, and this first piece of life science innovation infrastructure on it, points to an opportunity for local startups to flourish alongside research and academic staff, as well as in partnership with scaling and established life science companies, in a true cluster environment.