Kinetic Labs’ solution to a scientific problem

How Patsy Carney’s eureka moment lead to Ireland’s first private laboratory facility incubator

Patsy Carney, Director of Kinetic Labs: ‘the less we put in the labs and then work with client on their layout is the best way to do it so far’. Picture: Patrick Browne

What happens when you are a scientist short on lab space? This is a question Patsy Carney found himself mulling over as he watched more and more graduates enter the science workplace, and foreign direct investment (FDI) leaders in the field, move and expand around Waterford city and county.

Carney was well placed in his thinking. With two successful pharmaceutical companies co-founded and since sold – EirGen Pharma and Q1 Scientific – his entrepreneurial mind was accustomed to problem solving, but with 34 years of experience under his belt, a desire to give back and help others on their way.

The result was Kinetic Labs, Ireland’s first private laboratory facility incubator space for the life sciences sector. Funded mostly by Enterprise Ireland, it offers a base and space for those in need of lab facilities.

“This is a not-for-profit which is funded through our Regional Enterprise Development Fund (RDEF), hence the link to Enterprise Ireland, who fund 80 per cent of this initiative,” said Carney.

“While I was still running companies in Waterford this was a gap we identified in the start-up industries,” he said. “We had three companies in the life sciences space and one of them identified the challenges and cost of a facility that you need to do your science as it were, whether lab based or manufacturing. So we came up with this idea which was actually built out a facility which had clean rooms or lab space in it that start-ups or SMEs or FDI companies could rent at a competitive rate. They wouldn’t have to be building out a full facility and it would give start-ups a reasonably low entry point and effectively validate their business.”

We had three companies in the life sciences space and one of them identified the challenges and cost of a facility that you need to do your science as it were

Carney operates as a sponsor for the lab and offers his own experience, help and guidance those renting out the space.

“It’s located here in a building in the IDA industrial park with a shared office space called ‘Work Lab’ and our facility sits inside in this building which worked out well because we were able to use all of our funding that we got just to put it into the labs,” he explained. “Work Lab, which is a privately owned operation here, we rent that space from Work Lab, with shared office space from hot desking to single office use to multi person office to conference rooms. These are all wrapped around the labs so those companies can use office space separately too.

“We have high quality good finished labs that they can avail of and are sitting here in the industrial park with ready access to SETU, our local university, which is within walking distance here, as are the EI and IDA offices, and a couple of the technology gateways associated with the SETU. So, it’s the right location to physically help the eco-system within life sciences in the southeast and hopefully we attract more companies in.”

Carney was adamant that the labs could be rented as a blank canvass or fully fitted, so the needs of users could be matched.

“It can be a functional lab when you walk into it,” he said. “A few of our labs are fitted but what we find with our clients is the less we put into the labs from the beginning, the better. It’s there with all services and if you walked in its what you would expect from a laboratory space, but where you might want to put your benches, or fume hood or power or gasses and drainage is all sitting above you from the roof and ready for however you wish to lay out your lab. We’re finding the less we put in there and then work with client on their layout is the best way to do it so far.”

Flexibility is also very important when people approach Carney with an intention to rent lab space.

“People rent space through a lease agreement which we’re very flexible on,” he continued. “It could be an equipment supplier for the industry who wants to showcase their equipment to companies in the locality and they might actually rent a space from us for a week. But typically, it’s at least 12 months once they’ve done a fit out.

“Because it’s effectively regional development all coming from the action plan for jobs after the financial crash, it was about stimulating job growth across the regions. In the southeast, I chair the region enterprise plan in the southeast so we propose projects from that and the funding coming through is 80 per cent through EI funds, and 20 per cent through other sources. Waterford City and County Council (WCCC), has also provided some of the funding here, but

Carney, originally from Limerick, has seen the scientific landscape transform over the decades – and for the better.

“In the 1990s there was literally a handful of companies in the sector,” he said. “We had Bosch + Lomb, which were and continue to be, a huge employer in the region in the contact lens manufacturing space. And you had the company I worked for originally, now Teva, and it was a challenge for the IDA to attract other life sciences to the region, but they did just that.

“Now we have Sanofi and many more in the life science spaces and homegrown companies too. Now when we talk about it there’s a cluster of company. And now we have SETU and everything they offer which is fantastic. It’s a really good relationship that exists and hopefully now it begins to scale with the new Waterford campus and beyond.”