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Health problems are a ticking bomb

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at a meeting in Brussels about Horizon 2020 for research executives from the pharmaceutical industry 24 January 2012.

Check against delivery.

Europe's health sector is under tremendous pressure. The challenge to meet rising health costs is one of the greatest economic tests of the future. There are three significant factors:

  • Our populations are aging. And the older are living longer.
  • We can treat more and more. And treatment methods are becoming even more technically refined – and expensive.
  • Finally, the public's demands on the health system increase by the year.

Expectations never fall, but continue to rise. This combination is a ticking financial timebomb for the health sector. The challenges are great. But so too are the opportunities.

EU's research policy must have a challenge-approach

The challenges and opportunities are too big to be solved by one European country acting alone. That is why we emphasise the importance of international cooperation in European policies and funding for research and innovation. And we need a new approach.

Our first task is to finetune EU research policy so that it gets to grips with the tremendous challenges and utilises the opportunities. The EU's research policy must:

  • Be based on a challenge-approach
  • Focus on innovation
  • Create partnerships – not least between private companies and public institutions.

Innovate Medicines Initiative

The health industry is challenged. The industry is fighting to renew itself and develop innovative treatments. As well as ensuring there are sufficient research funds for the treatment of illnesses – Europe must also think of new ways that private pharmaceutical companies can collaborate with public research institutions.

Public-private partnerships are of crucial importance to Europe successfully meeting its challenges. And in that context, private companies should also collaborate with other private companies. That creates certain challenges for the boardrooms in the European pharmaceutical industry.

I know that the challenge has already been addressed through the Innovate Medicines Initiative under the 7th framework programme. The Innovative Medicines Initiative addresses the great health challenges in society – in strong cooperation between public and private research institutions on a European level.

The initiative has also helped get competing companies to work together more to achieve groundbreaking research results. It is the first step to a whole new way of researching and collaborating in the future.

A way in which resources, expertise and data can be gathered across competing companies and academic institutions to crack the code to some of the illnesses that will put immense pressure on society and its health system in the future. This approach revolutionises the way public and private sectors work together. And it is a very welcome revolution.

The Danish Presidency and Horizon

The new framework programme – Horizon 2020 has a challenge-approach. At its core are excellent science, competitive industries and better society. It's about development of future and emerging technologies. It's about supporting innovation and investment in research. And it's about tackling societal challenges for a better society.

The Danish Presidency wants to achieve a partial general approach in the Council of Ministers. Denmark wants to achieve agreement among the EU ministers on the Commission's proposal for the framework programme for research and innovation.

The negotiations regarding the budget take place as a part of the overall package for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020. The negotiations will not be finalised during the Danish Presidency.

With regards to content, Denmark wants to stress the following priorities:

  • Ensure greater connection between research and innovation.
  • Maintain excellence as the leading criterion for the EU's research and innovation programmes.
  • Ensure a strong and independent European Research Council.

We also want to provide a significant simplification for users of the framework programme. There must be an end to bureaucratic application procedures and lengthy response times. Less bureaucracy and more research will be the motto.

In its proposal for Horizon 2020, the Commission wants to allocate more than 9 billion euro to the 'Health, demographic change and wellbeing challenge'. In the current framework programme, 6.1 billion euro was budgeted. That is an increase of around 49 per cent while the Commission is proposing a general increase of around 61 per cent.

This means that the health area takes up a little bit less of the total budget according to the Commission's proposal than it does in the current framework programme. But the health challenge, however, has the largest budget out of the six societal challenges. The final budget will be negotiated later this year.

From challenges to solutions

Those of you here today represent companies that improve the quality of life and health of millions of people across the globe every day. But the challenges in the health sector will not lessen over time. In fact, the opposite is true.

It is crucial that Horizon 2020 is an important tool to meet these challenges. European challenges require European solutions. And it is of course essential that we discuss how to get from the challenges to the solutions.

I look forward to the general discussion later – and to hear how you believe a European research programme can make a difference. And what barriers it faces.

The basis for Horizon 2020 should be the considerable challenges we face. It should be a challenge-based approach. And I would like to stress three things I believe are crucial for turning challenges into solutions.

  • Firstly, we must focus on innovation. And the most innovative results are found through interdisciplinary thinking and when the best minds in their fields work together.
  • Secondly, there should be a market-driven approach which includes creating partnerships with the private and public sectors. Horizon 2020 should help bridge the gap between research and the market.
  • And finally, we must ensure that participation in the programme is simple and requires less red-tape. Thereby ensuring greater industry participation.

I look forward to the work on Horizon 2020. And I am looking forward to the discussion here today.

Thank you.

last modified Dec 16, 2021