Brexit, austerity, ageing and more could disrupt healthcare R&D in Europe. At a Science|Business Network dinner, guests debated what could be done about it
BRUSSELS – For Europe’s healthcare systems, now is the best and worst of times. Best because lifespans keep lengthening and medicine keeps advancing. Worst because several factors could now disrupt progress – from Brexit splintering health research teams, to the ageing population and rising costs breaking health budgets.
What’s needed, said some experts at a Science|Business meeting here Nov. 8: a coherent, ’whole value chain’ strategy for health research and innovation in Europe. While national politicians control the delivery of healthcare to their own citizens, when it comes to research and innovation, progress can be faster and cheaper if there is an over-arching, European-wide agreement towards common goals.
Said Clare Moody, a member of the European Parliament from Britain’s Labour Party: “It is to my mind one of the beauties of the EU; we have these long-term programmes and it does give stability. In member-states, where governments come and go, strategies come and go. Within the European Union we have a strategy for seven years, with plans and frameworks. These can evolve in this time, ideally learn from themselves, but you have that longer-term perspective.”
While there were no formal conclusions from the meeting, several attendees noted the importance of thinking across borders when it comes to life sciences R&D. In research and innovation, if you collaborate then knowledge can be shared, funding aggregated, manufacturing optimised. This happens now in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme – but there are still more opportunities for collaboration across sectors and countries.
Among the suggestions aired were greater EU coordination in education – of doctors, nurses and researchers in healthcare; a better EU-wide approach to the handling of patient data; continued EU-level protection for intellectual property; EU incentives for collaboration in healthcare innovation; and greater funding of healthcare R&D.
Read the full recommendations here.