As European research and innovation funds extend their focus towards diagnostics, digital and medical technologies, medtech companies must be ready to engage.
A major future EU public-private partnership in research and innovation is currently in gestation. I believe it could help to address some of the biggest challenges in modern healthcare – and its scope will be wide enough to welcome medical devices and diagnostics companies, large and small.
Let’s consider some historical context. The EU research and innovation budget is significant. The Horizon 2020 programme, which ends next year, has a budget of around €80 billion. One of the key elements, as far as healthcare is concerns, has been the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This public-private partnership was funded by the European Commission and through in-kind contributions from pharmaceutical companies. In its first iteration, it had a total budget of €2 billion. The current incarnation which ends next year, has a budget of more than €3 billion.
While IMI has, for more than 10 years, fostered collaboration and cooperation between pharmaceutical companies in unblocking bottlenecks in the medicines development pipeline, I expect the next big ‘PPP Health’ to go further. Modelled on the IMI structure as well as the ECSEL partnership for the micro-electronics sector, it will encompass pharma, biotech and medtech. This makes perfect sense: the solutions to the health challenges we face as a society do not lie in one industry – the future is patient-centred and integrated, with a significant role for digital technologies.
I expect this approach to be welcomed by the medtech sector, particularly if it is accompanied by supports that will help start-ups and entrepreneurs tap into funds that may previously have seemed distant or complex. After all, it is from these dynamic but smaller players that innovation flows.
The reality is that securing and accounting for EU funds will remain administratively demanding. We are speaking here of public money. But we can help SMEs to identify relevant calls for projects, to prepare proposes, identify partners and deliver projects. Unlike pharma or microelectronics companies which may be large enough to justify in-house expertise, SMEs and entrepreneurs need to be connected to consultants and expertise – in innovation clusters, for example – that can unlock the door to EU funding for them.
Even more significantly, as the European Commission has been preparing the next PPP, medtech has had a voice at the table. For more than three years, I have sat with MedTech Europe, the pharma and biotech industry, leading research institutes and others to help shape the future priorities for health innovation.
The result is a tentative set of priority areas for future research and innovation:
– Precision medicine: harnessing advances in genetics, biology and technology to provide more precise diagnostics and care
– Integrated care: patient-centred solutions across the continuum of care
– Digital health: Embracing advances in health information technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to change how healthcare is delivered
– Citizen and patient empowerment: involving people in the improvement of their health and wellbeing, and engaging them in disease management and in finding new solutions
– Value-based healthcare: initiatives designed to guide investment in health and social care based on ‘value’
In short, there are big opportunities ahead for medtech companies. A first step will be to discuss these issues at a ground-breaking session of the MedTech Forum in Paris. This will help companies to prepare a considered response to a public consultation document on the EU’s next PPP in health which I expect will be published this summer.
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