The Alliance for Biomedical Research (Biomed Alliance) has welcomed the inclusion of a Strategic Scientific Panel for Health in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme recently voted through by the European Parliament.

Ensuring strategic, evidence-based and co-ordinated planning of health research programmes has been a key lobbying platform for the Biomed Alliance in the evolution of Horizon 2020, the nearly €80 billion investment programme first unveiled by the European Commission as a proposed regulation in November 2011.

Negotiators for the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission reached provisional agreement on the final texts of the Horizon 2020 package in June 2013.

Following clearance by plenary vote in the European Parliament, Member State ministers must now give their final seal of approval ahead of the first calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, currently scheduled for 11 December 2013.

Succeeding FP7

Part of the Innovation Union, a flagship initiative aimed at enhancing Europe’s global competitiveness, Horizon 2020 succeeds the EU’s  €54.6 billion Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities (FP7), which ran from 2007 to 2013.

Horizon 2020, which will run from 2014 to 2020, departed from this model by bringing together for the first time under a single programme all of the research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation-related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

It also tightened the focus on turning scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services, while introducing a less complex programme architecture and cutting red tape.

Around 9.7% of the overall Horizon 2020 budget has been allocated to health, demographic change and well-being, while roughly 12% of the FP7 budget went to health.

Better alignment

The Biomed Alliance advocated for a Strategic Scientific Panel for Health on the basis that it would support better alignment of health research and policy in order to avoid fragmentation, boost innovation and address unmet medical needs.

The Panel will be “tasked with a clear mission of orientating and promoting the co-ordination of health research and innovation across Horizon 2020”, the Alliance said.

This role will include helping to eliminate duplication in research efforts and sharing discoveries across Europe, “thereby further promoting collaboration and patient access to new innovations faster than ever before”, it noted.  

The BioMed Alliance hopes the Panel will liaise, and act as an interface, with the Member States, industry, regulatory bodies, patients and other stakeholders under Horizon 2020.

“It is vital that the scientific community and policymakers establish permanent communication and collaboration channels in order to tackle complex societal challenges like health more efficiently than in the past,” commented Alliance president Professor Ulf Smith.