On 11 July, Health First Europe attended the lunch briefing on “Financing healthcare research and innovation: who should do what and with whom?” organized by European Voice in Brussels. The briefing brought together experts in healthcare research and innovation sector, industry voices and policymakers to discuss the severe challenges currently faced by the health sector and new funding opportunities.

Opening the two-hour discussion, European Voice’s Assistant Editor, Simon Taylor, introduced the panel of speakers and provided a brief overview of the topic, stating that investing in research and development is becoming more and more difficult with the economic crisis continuing and the costs of bringing new medicines to the market constantly rising. Bernard Munos, the founder of InnoThink consultancy, agreed and stressed the difficulties currently faced by the industrial sector. The increase in the average age of the population in the majority of EU countries, in combination with the rising expectations of patients to have access to the most advanced medicines and treatments, creates increased pressure on healthcare spending. Therefore, Mr. Munos suggested that there is a need to develop both medicines and treatments which will deal with the shifting landscape of common diseases. Mr. Munos also highlighted the importance of innovation in health and welfare as the keys to the future success of the pharmaceutical sector.

When discussing how to better finance health care while still rewarding innovation, some industry representatives suggested that the large pharmaceutical companies should outsource their R&D activities to small firms specialized in innovation. Schemes as such are considered to be a collaboration involving R&D funding programmes and the private sector and are held-up as a model for public-private partnership. Mr. Munos expressed his agreement by advocating that there is a need for closer collaboration and more intensified exchange of knowledge and expertise.

Professor Daan Crommelin from University of Utrecht continued the discussion calling further attention to the academic sector and the existing networks that lead to innovation. He also agreed that public-private partnerships can play a vital role in providing and fostering innovation techniques. However, he underlined that the existing landscape falls short in specialised knowledge and expertise and this is where academia could contribute the most. Professor Crommelin stated that there is a need for industry and academic institutions to work closely together to ensure a better and more effective way for exchanging information and data in order to address specific challenges of the healthcare sector.

Providing the perspective of the European venture capital industry, Dr. Jos Peeters, founder and managing partner of Capricorn Venture Partners, focused on the priorities and the goals of the industrial sector, referring to ICT activities and biotechnology. He called attention to the increasing interest in the close collaboration of companies and universities, adding that expanding support especially to small businesses and to Europe’s need for venture capital is of great importance.

Overall, the discussion focused on the debate about what each sector should do and how they should do it in order to address the challenges that health systems are facing today. Participants concluded that investing in research and development is the key strategy that leads to innovation and success. Participants also agreed that understanding the needs, interests and challenges in health could provide a foundation for a more holistic and effective health policy.