Preparing for Horizon Europe

Are you active in clinical research with international partners? Then you must have heard about Horizon Europe, the new 7-year European Union scientific research programme by the European Commission. This programme will be the successor of the current EU research and innovation programme- Horizon 2020.

With a proposed budget of 100 billion euro, Horizon Europe aims to strengthen the EU’s scientific and technological bases and the European Research Area, to boost Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness and jobs and to deliver on citizens’ priorities and sustain socio-economic model and values.

The ambitious initiative proposes to raise EU science spending levels considerably over the years 2021-2027 with a planned funding to address public health issues of 7.7 billion euros. Of course, this offers possibilities for research and innovation in urology as well. For that reason the EAU hosted a workshop last November on Horizon Europe together with the Biomed Alliance, a conglomerate of 32 medical societies that facilitate and improve biomedical research . Gianpietro Van De Goor, who is one of the leaders on the team pulling together all the activities of the ‘health cluster’ of Horizon Europe, gave the opening presentation.

Structure of the programme

Horizon Europe will consist of three pillars; open science; global challenges and industrial competitiveness. The second pillar on global challenges includes a health cluster, and is of particular relevance for the EAU.

The overall aim of this cluster is to demonstrate the EU’s support to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals calling for universal health coverage for all at all ages by 2030 by:

  • developing innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, monitor, treat and cure diseases;
  • mitigating health risks, protecting populations and promoting good health;
  • making public health systems more cost-effective, equitable and sustainable;
  • and supporting and enabling patients’ participation and self-management.

The Health cluster is divided into several areas of intervention that were defined on the basis of key challenges to public health in the EU: • Health throughout the life course

  • Environmental and social health determinants
  • Non-communicable and rare diseases
  • Infectious diseases, including poverty-related and neglected diseases
  • Tools, technologies and digital solutions for health and care, including personalised medicine
  • Health care systems

A new mission on cancer

The new ‘missions’ are a key novelty of Horizon Europe. Missions will consist of portfolios of research and innovation projects at all Technology Readiness Levels, with a clear goal that matters for EU citizens. The EU political process has defined cancer as the health mission, which will fall under the health cluster. The Commission has appointed members to each mission board. Mission boards will advise the European Commission how to define and implement each Mission area. The three priority areas identified in this cancer mission are prevention, treatments and survivorship.

The new public private partnership (formerly the Innovative Medicines Initiative)

The Commission has proposed that the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) should expand its scope to become the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), broadening the remit from pharmaceuticals to include diagnostics, medical devices, medical imaging and biotech. This would impact not only the research agenda, which is currently decided by the research directors of pharmaceutical companies, but also its composition, since the industry partners’ contribution to IMI is managed by EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations). IMI also has an assortment of associated partners including charities, universities, research institutes and small companies.

A network of researchers from the EAU is currently involved in a project funded by the IMI, using ‘big data’ to better prostate cancer outcomes, called PIONEER. At the earlier mentioned workshop on Horizon Europe, Magda Chlebus from EFPIA highlighted the importance of medical societies joining in with these projects, as they ensure the link with translation of research to clinic, and to the patients their members care for every day. The use of ‘big data’ is likely to remain a key priority in the IHI programme, especially as the new European Health Commissioner has been asked to deliver a European Health Data Space, which will help EU citizens access their electronic health records and prescriptions when abroad in the EU, but will also aim to support the use of data for research purposes. PIONEER can really assist this initiative.

Taking EAU priorities forward with the European Commission

As a follow up of the workshop, representatives from the EAU discussed the shared priorities for the themes emerging from Horizon Europe. We agreed that the research on cancer would be an important theme for our research alliances, with a particular focus on prostate cancer. Also, the work on sharing and inputting digital data for research purposes is a critical theme, and leads on from our work on eUROGEN and PIONEER. Both will be priorities of our shared work together. The next step will be a meeting with the relevant European Commissioners on these subjects, highlighting how the EAU can support them in their aims.

If you’re interested to play a role in one of these initiatives or in case you have a research project at national level contributing to urology, please contact Sarah Collen, the new EAU policy coordinator at EUoffice@uroweb.org. More information on Horizon Europe can be expected in the course of this year.