Horizon Europe to boost health innovation for vulnerable populations

Horizon Europe to boost health innovation for vulnerable populations

A budget €100bn is being proposed for Horizon Europe, with funds allocated for health support for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, very young, and the disabled.

Horizon Europe is proposing to boost financial support following the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the next EU Research & Innovation Investment Programme for 2021 to 2027. The budget will be broken down into three pillars – Pillar 1 is for Open Science, including European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Research Infrastructures; Pillar 2 is for Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness including Health, Inclusive & Secure Society, Digital and Industry, Climate, Energy & Mobility, and Food & natural resources; and Pillar 3 is for European Innovation Council, European innovation ecosystems, European Institute of Innovation and Technology. A budget of €52.7m is being invested into Pillar 2 of the programme objectives. The health funding will go toward the health cluster that is supporting care for vulnerable populations.

Objectives of the programme include supporting the creation and diffusion of high-quality knowledge, strengthening the impact of Research & Innovation in supporting EU policies, and to foster all forms of innovation and strengthen market deployment.

The objectives meet the European Social Pillar to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages. The proposal states: ‘Everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality.’

Health support for vulnerable populations

The funding intends to improve the health of EU citizens, including cross border health threats, epidemics preparedness, and global health security.

The funding for health, as part of ‘Health throughout the Life Course’, will help to support people in vulnerable stages of life that have specific health needs, and which require better understanding and tailored solutions.

Aiming to accelerate the development and use of health innovations for European patients, funding will go towards the following areas:

  • Early development and the ageing process
  • Maternal and child health
  • Health needs of adolescents
  • People with disabilities and injuries
  • Active life for the elderly
  • Health education and digital health literacy

The proposal highlights that innovation development can be a costly and lengthy process and sees an opportunity to converge sectors such as the pharmaceutical sector, medical technology sector, and digital sector, and there will be opportunities for cross border collaborations to help patients access the care they need.

Innovative Health Initiative

As part of the Innovative Health Initiative, there will be partnerships between EU and health-related industries, including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices, imaging, biotech, and digital industries, as well as a European collaborative platform for research and innovation.

Responding to unmet public health needs through accelerating the development of innovative healthcare interventions, the objectives of the initiative include facilitating technology integration into the healthcare system in order to help understand the progress of disease, enabling the delivery of innovative products, and overcoming barriers to digitalisation.

Further objectives of the initiative aim to:

• Contribute to methodologies for better assessing the value of innovative interventions
• Contribute to the sustainability of the healthcare systems
• Faster time-to-market for innovative products
• Create new business models
• Incentive for industry to invest in unmet public health needs
• Facilitate the delivery of cost-effective interventions
• Improved health outcomes
• Cross-sectoral industry collaborations

 EU4Health and European Social Fund+

The Programme will be working in synergy with the EU4Health programme, which proposes to invest €9.4bn in strengthening health systems, and the European Social Fund+ (ESF+) initiatives. The European Social Fund+ is supporting Europe’s social dimension, by practising the European Pillar of Social Rights, and will have a total budget of €101bn. The Health strand of ESF+ will have a budget of  €1.2bn.

EU4Health is to be implemented by European Member States, as well as NGO’s, which will be eligible to apply for funding in the form of grants, prizes, and procurement. The European Commission will also be adapting its proposal to integrate the health strand of the European Social Fund+ into the EU4Health programme.

Programmes working together to improve healthcare across Europe include:

  • European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) to support vulnerable groups in accessing healthcare
  • European Regional and Development Fund to improve regional health infrastructure
  • Horizon Europe for health research and innovation
  • rescEU to create stockpiles for emergency medical supplies
  • Digital Europe Programme for creating the digital infrastructure needed for digital health tools

The expected impacts of the Horizon Europe funding for health care include: ‘better, safer and more affordable health technologies, tools, and digital solutions; more efficient, accessible, sustainable and high-quality healthcare services and systems; and improved health promotion and disease prevention throughout the life course.’

The launch of first European Partnerships under Horizon Europe are expected in early 2021.

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