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Last month the EU parliament gave the green light for the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), by (finally) approving the underlying legislation. IHI will get started in 2022, much later than originally planned, similar to what we wit nessed for the overall Horizon Europe R&D programme. IHI will manage an impressive overall budget of €2.2 billion. With that much money on the table, there was bound to be some debate on priorities, governance and budget.
IHI is the successor of Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), one of the most successful industrial partnerships. IMI aimed to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. IMI was the biggest public-private partnership in the life sciences, in which the European Commission partnered with EFPIA (the European pharmaceutical industry), universities, research centres, patient organisations, medicine regulators and SMEs. In total, IMI invested €5.6 billion in research. Nevertheless, IMI has also been criticised for being too pharma focused, with big pharma companies heavily involved in setting the research agenda.
IHI is now building on the success of IMI and learning from the criticism. It promises to take a more holistic approach to health research and translation, covering the entire continuum of care, from prevention, diagnostics, to treatment and disease management, as it believes that future breakthroughs in medical science will involve cross-sectoral discoveries. Like IMI, IHI will work by bringing 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, in line with the continuum of care, IHI will not just look at pharmaceuticals, but will include medical technology, biotech, digital health and vaccines, and even companies active in the digital area.
Of the €2.2 billion total budget for IHI, the European Commission will contribute €1.2 billion, complemented by €1 billion from industry. Five industry associations (COCIR, EFPIA, MedTech Europe, EuropaBio and Vaccines Europe) have joined IHI, representing the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical technologies industries operating in Europe. In addition, organisations that want to support specific areas of research without becoming full members of IHI can apply to become ‘contributing partners’. Together they will determine IHI’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA): this aims to align with the needs, ambition, and feasibility of the European health and research communities while being complementary with other European and national initiatives. For example, IHI will contribute to a number of European policies, most notably Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the new Industrial Strategy for Europe and the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe.
In the coming months, IHI’s governance structures will need to be set up. The detailed work programmes, supporting documents, annotated grant agreements, templates etc. will need to be drafted before the first calls for proposals can be launched. It remains to be seen how the budget will be distributed across the priorities and industry sectors involved. The first call deadlines are not expected until well into 2022, so watch this space.
Modis has supported numerous multistakeholder collaborations in IMI/Horizon Europe projects and can help you in the identification and application process towards the most suitable grant. Contact us to see what we can do for you.
– Sofie Meerschaut