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Ministers announce initiative to exploit economic opportunities in health

Northern Ireland must build on the significant boosts its innovative approach to health and prosperity has received from a unique event in Brussels, the Ministers for Health and Enterprise have agreed.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Connected Health and Prosperity Event at the European Parliament in Brussels, Health Minister Edwin Poots and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster announced the establishment of a Task and Finish Group (TAFG) to exploit economic opportunities from the health sector.

The new group, made up of international business experts, will identify economic opportunities in the health sector. It will then draw up proposals for consideration by the two Ministers.]

Both Ministers said they were determined to capitalise on an event which offered European health, academic and business leaders, the opportunity to witness how Northern Ireland is successfully employing technology, research and innovation to improve patient outcomes and boost the economy.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "The opportunities for economic expansion offered by Health and Social Care sector are significant. It spends almost £4.5billion annually, provides for 9% of the workforce and generates almost 10% of total economic output. We believe we can build a successful and sustainable economy by identifying and exploiting opportunities where technology and innovation support the improvement of health care.

"Through this very successful event in the European Parliament, we have demonstrated how Northern Ireland is forging ahead in improving health while boosting the economy. Now we must move on to the next level."

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “With a proven track record in research and development and in delivering innovation, Northern Ireland is well placed to seize the considerable opportunities presented by Connected Health. It is vital that we continue to build on our partnerships across Europe and I very much welcomed the opportunity to be at the European Parliament to share some examples of the impressive work already taking place in Northern Ireland.

“Healthcare is one the key industries capable of delivering the kind of knowledge–based economy we all aspire to and our collaborative approach is being viewed positively at home and abroad. I want to thank the businesses, universities and healthcare professionals who took time out of their busy schedules to attend this worthwhile event, and I would encourage them to explore how together we can harness even more opportunities in the future."

EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, praised the progress Northern Ireland had made when he addressed the event.

First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA also attended the opening of the exhibition at the European Parliament

The two-day event was hosted by Diane Dodds MEP and included exhibitions and seminars showcasing how business, universities and the Health and Social Care system (HSC) have collaborated to develop techniques to improve health care and thus stimulate the local economy.

Mrs Dodds said: "It is important for Northern Ireland that we as elected representatives adopt a joined up approach across all levels of government, including Europe, when dealing with the health and wellbeing of our citizens.

"This event is the perfect opportunity to put Northern Ireland firmly in the spotlight by showcasing our expertise in terms of innovation and technology to a European audience. I am especially delighted that Tonio Borg, accepted my invitation to attend and address delegates, and witness the good work being done in Northern Ireland."

Notes to editors:

1. The Task And Finish Group will be made up of members who bring a wide range of business, technical and health care expertise both from within and outside Northern Ireland. It will be chaired by Brian O’Connor from the European Connected Health Alliance and will also include: Mark Ennis, Invest NI Chairman, Sinclair Stockman, Digital NI, Professor George Crooks OBE, NHS 24 Scotland, Bryan Keating, Matrix Pannel, Dave Whitlinger, New York E-Health Collaborative, Joan Cornet, TicSalut.

2. The Terms of Reference for the Task and Finish Group can be found online

3. For photographs of the event or for media enquiries about this press release please contact the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0636, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.