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New Drugs Technology Is Fuelling Pharmaceutical R&D In Ireland

Over the course of this year in particular, Irish pharmaceutical companies have been notably boosting investment in their research and development (R&D) activities

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

Over the course of this year in particular, Irish pharmaceutical companies have been notably boosting investment in their research and development (R&D) activities. The aim has been to improve efficiency and productivity in the delivery of cost-effective, innovative health products and medicines.

The drive for new, effective drugs and medical products continues to gain momentum while healthcare providers, regulators and consumers push for more transparency, better value for money and improved access to information. This has meant a substantial investment in R&D and innovative project work.


Manufacturing has been the biggest player in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland over recent decades. However, change is happening in drug production especially in the form of a movement from batch to continuous manufacturing. In days gone by, the pharmaceutical industry used to produce a batch, then test it before making a further batch, and so on. Nowadays, manufacturing is continuous rather than batch-based, with testing carried out during the production process using things like sensors to increase efficiency. This is just one small example.

Of course, R&D can be risky and both biological and physical science are naturally unpredictable, despite best efforts. R&D is also likely to come with a hefty price tag attached, with many projects simply not working out even after spending a very large amount of money.

The good news is that technology is starting to tackle this unpredictability, with a couple of key developments taking place. Irish scientists are now making much more use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in addressing issues like patient safety and adverse reactions to medication. By using cutting-edge technological advances, researchers can now locate drug molecules that work for patients who previously were allergic.

The convergence of biology with big data, ICT, quantum computing, data analytics and gene sequencing represents another huge step forward in addressing common problems pharmaceutical companies face, especially in areas like oncology. For example, innovative work is now taking place that means a tumour can be analysed before having its DNA data used to find further tumour cells in a sample of blood. These developments are already being used to create super-sensitive tests to detect the spread of certain cancers. They can also help to quantify the presence of tumour cells present and measure each patient’s response to treatment. It’s an exciting move forward, with technology developing fast thanks to big investment in innovation.

How can Irish companies offset some of the costs involved in innovation?

There are a number of Irish government-backed financial incentives designed to encourage businesses to grow and innovate. One of them is R&D Tax Credits, a scheme that allows companies to claim back a relief via their Corporation Tax submission. It's a very popular and lucrative opportunity, with credit calculated at 25% of eligible R&D expenditure offsetting a company's Corporation Tax.

Any company from any background or industry can qualify for R&D Tax Credits. The key is that the business must have recently undertaken work that sought to achieve an advancement in science or technology. Essentially, if a project involved a level of technical uncertainty which can’t easily be solved by a competent professional then it’s like that eligible R&D activities were taking place.

It's a purposefully wide scope but sadly many companies are still not aware the scheme exists and could be missing out on thousands of euros of vital funds.

Interested? Find out more on our R&D Tax Credits page.

What else is there?

The other big financial incentive for Irish companies are R&D grants. These can be European grants as well as those from Enterprise Ireland. The two main ones are Horizon 2020 and EUREKA Eurostars.

Horizon 2020 is a European scheme that has produced almost €80 billion of grant funding over seven years (2014 to 2020). It’s designed to help Europe produce world-class science and remove barriers to innovation. It also helps the private and public sectors to work together in delivering innovation, allowing Europe to compete on a global stage. More information can be found on our Horizon 2020 SME Instrument and Horizon 2020 Main Scheme pages.

EUREKA Eurostars is a European scheme for progressive SMEs looking to collaborate their research efforts with partners across Europe, and with other participating countries. The scheme is endorsed by Enterprise Ireland; learn more on our EUREKA Eurostars page.

Drugs and drug discovery

Improving diagnostics and the efficacy of medicines is another benefit of modern new technologies. Recent advances have meant that it will soon be possible to establish the severity of a patient’s disease to determine which drug would be most appropriate much more accurately than now. Then there’s drug discovery. Some Irish companies are now collaborating with pharmaceutical industry partners to target parts of the genome, potentially leading to new drugs being developed. Many drugs still at the developmental stage have a genomics basis, with experience showing they are far more likely to be successful in clinical trials and achieve FDA approval than those which are not. The food industry is another area where similar technologies can be adapted to bring new health products into the marketplace.

However, marketing these products is very often not easy - but there are a couple of ways to do it. The first is make sure there are well-designed, high quality scientific studies conducted to support any claims. In the food industry, a portfolio of evidence should be submitted to the European Food Safety Agency in order to substantiate the health benefits they are extolling for example. Again however, this process can be expensive, and many submissions do not obtain approval.

The other way to go is to carry out the studies and then use them to advertise the product without making any specific health claims. Companies can still complete the development, achieve the evidence and get the message out to customers without making a claim as to the health benefits.

Myriad Associates can help your business make an effect R&D Tax Credit claim

Thanks to our years of R&D tax relief experience with Irish companies of all sizes and structures, Myriad Associates offers the highest quality R&D tax advice needed to get the most from your claim. We have worked across Ireland as well as the UK, and our friendly team consists of experts who specialise in every area of R&D tax relief.

Speak to us about any aspect of your R&D Tax Credit claim today for tailor-made advice to suit your company. You can reach us on +353 1 566 2001 or by using our contact page.

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