Why are we changing?
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) started life in 2008 as a public-private partnership (PPP) between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry. The initiative proved successful, and in 2014 the IMI2 programme was launched. The IMI1 and IMI2 programmes resulted in almost 200 projects covering a wide range of disease areas and addressing challenges across all areas of medical research and drug development. IMI projects have delivered impressive results that amply demonstrate the value of a PPP that brings together all stakeholders – universities, companies large and small, patients, regulators and others.
Meanwhile science is driving new avenues of research and development often spanning different sectors within the life-science community, and it is clear that future breakthroughs in medical science will involve cross-sectoral discoveries, such as medical device / drug combinations or diagnostics based on artificial intelligence.
With the end of the IMI2 programme in sight, and aware of the growing importance of cross-sectoral cooperation, the European Commission decided to launch a new PPP in health. In February 2021 they released their proposal to create the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI). The proposal was formally approved by Council of the European Union, which represents the EU’s Member States, in November 2021.
IHI is designed to build on what worked well in IMI, address the lessons learnt, and leverage the benefits of cross-sectoral collaboration in research and innovation to better respond to current and emerging health needs.
As IHI, our vision is still to ensure that Europe remains at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary, sustainable, patient-centric health research and innovation. Our number one goal is to translate health research and innovation into real benefits for patients and societies.
In practice, all of this means that while some elements will stay the same as we move from IMI to IHI, other things are changing significantly.
What's changing, and what's staying the same?
Members and funding
As was the case in IMI, the ‘public’ member in the partnership is the European Union, represented by the European Commission.
The industry members are COCIR, EFPIA (including Vaccines Europe), EuropaBio and MedTech Europe, taking IHI beyond the pharmaceutical industry and bringing on board the medical technology, biotechnology, digital health and vaccine industries.
In addition, organisations that want to support specific areas of research without becoming full members of IHI can apply to become ‘contributing partners’ (similar to the Associated Partners in IMI2).
As in IMI, the EU will provide 50 % of the funding for IHI, and the industry members will contribute the other 50%, primarily through 'in-kind' contributions.
IMI started with a strong focus on the pharmaceutical sector. However, in recent years, we have launched growing numbers of projects in fields such as digital health, big data and imaging. Under IHI, we plan to support truly cross-sectoral projects involving the biopharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology sectors, including companies active in the digital area. By adopting an integrated, cross-sector approach, IHI will be well placed to have an impact on health research and healthcare, both of which are increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. We will also work more on disease prevention and gain a better understanding of the determinants of health and priority disease areas.
Like IMI, IHI has a Governing Board made up of equal numbers of representatives from the European Commission and the industry partners, plus a States Representatives Group (SRG) comprising representatives of the EU Member States plus countries associated to Horizon Europe.
New under IHI is the Science and Innovation Panel, an advisory body that will bring together representatives of the scientific community and the wider health sector, such as regulatory bodies, patients and end users. The panel will also include representatives of the European Commission and the industry partners of IHI as well as SRG members. The panel may also invite additional ad-hoc experts to join in discussions of specific subjects.
This revised governance structure will help IHI to better incorporate in priority setting the views of various stakeholders involved in health care, and ensure that IHI projects adequately address public health issues and the needs of end users.
Calls for proposals and projects
Like IMI, IHI will work by running open, competitive Calls for proposals, and we will continue to publish draft topic texts before the Call launch to give applicants additional time to work on their proposals.
As in IMI, IHI will bring together diverse stakeholders (universities, companies large and small, and other health stakeholders) in collaborative projects that address disease areas where there is a high burden on patients and/or society. However, as mentioned above, in IHI we expect to launch a larger proportion of truly cross-sectoral projects involving new stakeholders representing the other industry sectors.
What happens to the IMI projects?
From a legal point of view, the legislation creating IHI replaces the legislation creating IMI. This means that the IHI Programme Office will continue to manage the IMI projects, many of which still have years to run. This is why we have transferred the IMI project factsheets to the IHI website, and we will keep communicating about IMI project successes in our newsroom and through our other channels. We are also keeping the web pages with resources for IMI projects. The IMI website will be archived by the EU Publications Office.