NEW REPORT SHOWS IRELAND LOSING OUT ON DEVELOPMENT OF MEDICAL HEALTHCARE SECTOR - Ireland is losing out to other countries in the development of the medical healthcare sector, according to a blueprint report on the sector to be published later today. The Government's Advisory Science Council has spent the last 12 months investigating business opportunities across the healthcare sector which employs up to 100,000 people working in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical devices areas. Its remit was to plan how Ireland can build an international reputation in health research and attract new expertise into the country as well as improve the general health of the population. 

Ena Prosser, a member of the Advisory Science Council, says that among the report's key recommendations are the employment of 30 new clinical scientists immediately, an increase in funding for health research from 1% of the health budget to 1.6% and the appointment of a new assistant secretary in the Department of Health responsible for health research. She says there is no reason why Ireland can not be a world leader in the area of medical healthcare and says that in order for this to happen, the existing infrastructure of the industry has to be linked up. €140m is being spent this year in the industry, she adds.

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COOK IRELAND WINS KEY EXPORT AWARD FOR 2006 - The country depends on exports and a gala event in Dublin last night honoured business selling to overseas. The awards are organised by the Irish Exporters Association and named Limerick based Cook Ireland as 2006 Exporter of the Year. Cook Ireland is owned by US parent, the Cook Group and in Ireland the company has doubled its exports of medical devices in the last four years.

Cook Ireland's CEO Bill Doherty says that the devices his company manufactures - and then exports - are used inside the body but do not require major surgery to insert them. Cook's exports have increased to total €75m in the past year and its products are exported to 37 countries worldwide, mainly to Western Europe, Asia and Africa.

With Budget 2007 fast approaching, Mr Doherty says he would like to see Finance Minister Brian Cowen noting the 'creeping rise in costs, particularly energy costs'. He says the country needs to watch our costs base.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Cork County Council has confirmed its officials have been in discussions with Greencore in connection with the future of the former sugar plant at Mallow.  It is understood Greencore - which has already announced a €1.1 billion development of its site in Carlow - is seeking to have its 300 acre site at Mallow rezoned from industrial use to commercial and residential use. 

*** The Fyffes property spin-off company, Blackrock International Land, has said it is to buy almost 113,000 square feet of office space spread over three buildings at Milton Keynes in England for €37.5m.