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On 7 February, Health First Europe attended a public hearing on the European Commission Communication’s “Partnering on Research and Innovation on the current example of the pilot partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). During the meeting, the European Economic and Social Committee warmly welcomed the Commission’s initiative to establish and promote European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs), which are geared towards organising the European research and innovation cycle in a more effective way. Representatives from the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee participated in order to give their opinions and discuss the European Commission partnering approach.

Under the 2010 Innovation Union flagship initiative, the European Commission launched a new model of actions: the concept of partnerships. This concept helps to denote where innovation is lacking by highlighting priorities in certain areas in order to achieve the goals of the Innovation Union which includes removing obstacles to innovation and revolutionizing the way public and private sectors work together.

The European Innovation Partnerships provide an overarching framework for the various partnership models by bringing together European and national-level players from the public sector in public-public partnerships (P2P) and public-private (PPP) partnerships, as explained by Dr. Octavi Quintana Trias – Director of the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission. Today, the partnering approach can help address major societal challenges and strengthen Europe’s competitive position by making the R&I cycle more efficient and shortening the time from research to market. Partnerships involve varying degrees of joint effort: policy level (such as Joint Programming which is an emerging P2P concept funded on high-level commitment to address a particular societal challenge) or programmes (such as ERA-NET on rare diseases which is the closest integration of national programmes). The benefits of this partnering method are various include facilitating scaling up and multiplying examples, joining resources and expertise and bridging gaps thus improving framework conditions.

As regards the initiatives in health, the pilot European Innovation Partnership (IEP) on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) is intended to test the concept and assess how it can best be implemented. According to Maria Iglesia Gomez , Head of the Innovation Unit, Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (SANCO) at the European Commission, the use of this new partnering approach will aim to reach the ambitious European target “+ 2 healthy life years by 2020” by ensuring health equality of life, long-term sustainability and economic growth.MEP Heinz K. Becker (EPP, Austria) also emphasised the importance of innovation in the health sector and above all, the necessity of encouraging people’s independence and responsibility.

Today, the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) is an example of what should still be taken into account over and above the aspects highlighted. However, the initial lessons from the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) must be taken into account in order to identify where and how to improve the implementation of partnering. The event concluded by highlighting that, cooperations for developing a partnering approach in R&I at European and national level have so far yielded positive results but efforts are necessary for future success.