The challenge: bringing diverse sectors together to transform healthcare
We are in an exciting era of medical research and innovation. Science is driving new developments that often span different sectors within the life science community. As a result, growing numbers of patients already use medical devices, digital technologies and e-health services as part of their healthcare. Looking to the future, it is clear that new breakthroughs will increasingly involve cross-sectoral discoveries, such as medical devices-drugs combinations or artificial intelligence diagnostics.
Yet all too often, the industrial sectors involved in health research and care (pharmaceutical, digital, IT, medical devices, diagnostics, etc.) work in isolation. This means that opportunities to integrate results from different sectors in a way that could really transform healthcare are lost. At a time when health systems are under more pressure than ever, and with many diseases still lacking effective treatments, we urgently need an innovative, more integrated approach to health research and health care.
The vision: From disease care to health care
The Innovative Health Initiative is a partnership between the European Union and industry associations representing the sectors involved in healthcare, namely COCIR (medical imaging, radiotherapy, health ICT and electromedical industries); EFPIA, including Vaccines Europe (pharmaceutical industry and vaccine industry); EuropaBio (biotechnology industry); and MedTech Europe (medical technology industry).
By supporting projects that bring together these industries as well as universities, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patients, regulators and others, we aim to pioneer a new, more integrated approach to health research. Our approach moves the focus from disease care to health care, starting with disease prevention, and covering diagnostics, (personalised) treatments, and disease management. At every step, products and services from different sectors would be seamlessly integrated, making it easier than ever for patients and their clinicians to monitor and manage their health.
IHI’s objectives are set out in the legislation creating IHI. Our general objectives are to:
- turn health research and innovation into real benefits for patients and society;
- deliver safe, effective health innovations that cover the entire spectrum of care – from prevention to diagnosis and treatment – particularly in areas where there is an unmet public health need;
- make Europe’s health industries globally competitive.
The legislation also includes the following specific objectives, which are described in more detail in the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA).
- Improve our understanding of the factors that affect our health and the development and treatment of certain diseases.
- Integrate fragmented health research and innovation efforts by bringing together health industry sectors and other stakeholders. This will enable the development of tools, data, platforms, technologies and processes that will in turn facilitate the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases, especially in areas where there is an unmet public health need.
- Demonstrate the feasibility of integrated healthcare solutions that draw on various technologies from different sectors and address the needs of the people who will use them, such as patients and healthcare professionals.
- Make better of opportunities to gather health data and use it in research and care, all while respecting relevant privacy legislation.
- Develop ways of assessing the value of innovative, integrated health care solutions to patients, carers, healthcare professionals and organisations, and other stakeholders.
In addition, IHI has a number of operational objectives, such as increasing the involvement of patients and citizens in health innovation, and improving skills for cross-sectoral health innovation.
The legislation creating IHI also creates eight other joint undertakings. These public-private partnerships share some broader objectives, such as boosting the EU’s competitiveness; contributing to the EU’s response to global challenges (including health); accelerating the green and digital transitions; strengthening scientific excellence; stimulating research and innovation in SMEs.
IHI contributes to several EU policies
On the policy front, we expect IHI’s projects to contribute to EU policies, most notably Horizon Europe (of which IHI is a part), as well as Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, the new Industrial Strategy for Europe, the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe and the European Health Data Space. In addition, IHI contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.