Collaboration on large research programmes is vital if Europe is to nurture and maintain a thriving medical research base, recommended participants at a recent meeting on the White Paper published by the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) last December.

Organised by the EMRC, the meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, brought together heads of medical research councils in Europe, presidents of medical learned societies, deans of medical faculties and editors of medical journals to debate the White Paper, Present Status and Future Strategy for Medical Research in Europe.

Among the paper’s main recommendations was that public funding of medical research in Europe needs to double to at least 0.25% of gross domestic product (GDP) within the next 10 years, if the region is to see the benefits in terms of better health and welfare for its citizens, a stronger research base for industry and promotion of Europe as a leading knowledge-based society.

One of the further recommendations that came out of the Frankfurt meeting was that increases in funding for medical research in Europe must be through sustainable growth, reported the EMRC’s umbrella body, the European Science Foundation. The participants also recommended that:

- Target areas for research should be determined by health priorities and not just scientific interest
- Collaboration is essential to improve the peer review of research grants, while peer reviewers should be acknowledged and rewarded
- MD/PhD programmes are important and should be of high quality
- The best medical researchers should be engaged to teach
- There is a need for novel technologies and research infrastructures as well as salary incentives to attract and retain young researchers

In its analysis for the White Paper of the state of medical research in Europe compared with its global competitors, the EMRC found that the US spends considerably more on medical research than Europe. As a proportion of GDP, non-market sector expenditure on biomedical research and development in 2004 (the most recent data available) was between 0.37% and 0.40 % in the US compared with 0.17 % in the original 15 member states of the European Union.

The full text of the White Paper on Present Status and Future Strategy for Medical Research in Europe may be found at www.esf.org/emrc.