The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has welcomed the continued commitment to public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Horizon 2020, the European Commission’s proposed €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation.

“There is shared understanding that private companies and public bodies must collaborate more and to think about new business models which allow us to work much more quickly to meet unmet needs,” said EFPIA director general Richard Bergström.

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

Horizon 2020, which will run from 2014 to 2020, is a departure in that it brings 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 tightens the focus on turning scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services, while introducing a less complex programme architecture and cutting red tape – for example, by simplifying reimbursement for research activities.

Funding commitments

Among the funding commitments are a dedicated science budget of €24.6 billion, including a 77% increase in funding for the European Research Council; and a €31.7 billion allocation to address major concerns shared by all Europeans – one of the six ‘themes’ being health, demographic change and well-being.

The preamble to the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon 2020 – The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation notes that the impact of programme funding should be maximised by “combining Horizon 2020 and private sector funds within public-private partnerships in key areas where research and innovation could contribute to Europe's wider competitiveness goals and help tackle societal challenges”.

Joint Technology Initiatives

The public-private partnerships launched under the Seventh Framework Programme in the form of Joint Technology Initiatives – which include the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), focused on new methods and tools to accelerate the development of safer and more effective drugs –  “may be continued using more fit-for-purpose structures”, the preamble states.

Article 19 of the proposed regulation proper notes that Horizon 2020 “may be implemented through public-private partnerships where all the partners concerned commit to support the development and implementation of research and innovation activities of strategic importance to the Union's competitiveness and industrial leadership or to address specific societal challenges”.

Industry interest

In response, the EFPIA has confirmed industry’s interest in “continuing public-private collaborations which will enable game-changing biopharmaceutical research projects that address scientific and technological bottlenecks in areas with grand societal challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance”.

EFPIA members are already committed to the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a “unique and first-of-its-kind public-private partnership where co-operation between academia, SMEs [small to medium-sized enterprises] and the industry has changed the understanding and perspective of public private partnerships within life science”, Bergström pointed out.

There is “therefore a desire to build on the success and positive learnings from IMI to develop a new Partnership Framework with the European Commission focused on pharmaceutical R&D”, he added.

The Commission’s proposal will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adopting the regulation before the end of 2013.