The network, which has participant universities from across all corners of the island, will initially focus on research into oesophageal cancer. Ireland and the UK have the highest rates of oesophageal cancer in the world.

In Northern Ireland, the five-year survival rate is 19%, while in the Republic, this rate is 24%.

Breakthrough Cancer Research CEO said: "The inaugural project will bring everyone working on, or living with, oesophageal cancer in Ireland together to take on the key challenges, with the aim of doubling survival in 20 years.

"Research works and, over the last 50 years, we have seen huge progress delivered in overall survival. Today we have over 200,000 cancer survivors in the Republic of Ireland but unfortunately, less than 1% of them have survived an oesophageal Cancer diagnosis. Research is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”

The six universities taking part in the network’s first project are Queen’s University, Trinity College, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Galway, and the Royal College of Surgeons.