‘EUnited’ in Diversity (Guest blog)

Did COVID-19 pull the trigger?

COVID-19 has shown there is no welfare and successful economy without the healthcare sector. The only way to protect our people and economies against future health threats is to improve the long-term sustainability of our healthcare systems in Europe.

COVID-19 has also showed all of us that it is possible to reorganize healthcare services (telemedicine, home monitoring/ delivery, hospital capacity), improve data and digital (virtual education, registries) and eliminate waste in the systems to make them more robust and sustainable.

The lightning-fast quest for COVID vaccines shows how fast vaccine development can proceed when there is a true global emergency and sufficient resources. It has shown that the development process can be accelerated substantially without compromising on safety. And raises the question for similar approach for other non-communicable diseases.

What is the role of the EU Institutions?

The EU Institutions can enhance political alignment and commitment, like during COVID-19 pandemic, acting as a broker amongst stakeholders, fostering dialogue to avoid lack of resources, duplication and fragmentation, bringing cure to those in need and making the EU agile, innovation-friendly, efficient in avoiding waste of resources whilst serving citizens.

What is the role of the industry?

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Europe's industry is the motor of growth and prosperity in Europe. And it is at its best when it draws on what makes it strong: its people and their ideas, talents, diversity and entrepreneurial spirit…”

The healthcare sector consists of businesses that provide medical services, manufacture medical equipment or medicines, provide medical insurance, or otherwise facilitate the provision of healthcare to patients. Pharmaceutical Industry is one of the main drivers. The McKinsey report “Innovation in a crisis: Why it is more critical than ever” showed that across surveyed industries, only pharma and medical products has increased its focus on innovation during the COVID-19 crisis.

The healthcare sector is one of the largest and most complex in the EU economy, employing around 10% of workforce. The EU healthcare sector benefits from a strong system of medical research and development, in cooperation with the higher education system and the technology industry.

Why do we need an EU healthcare ecosystem?

Roberto Viola, Director General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT), shared the idea about the healthcare ecosystem in June 2018: “We are really trying to set a new environment. The new goal for Europe is a data driven healthcare system. This is a completely different vision from what we were talking about in the past... Data-driven healthcare should not be some state-controlled enterprise, but rather an ecosystem that is open for private entrepreneurs who provide the tools that create value out the vast technological and data resources…”

We have the clear vision to boost sustainability and efficiency in healthcare systems across Europe. The EU Institutions together with the entire healthcare sector could develop an ecosystem that is open for private entrepreneurs and organizations able to provide the technological and innovative tools and resources in order to create a value impact.

As an integral part of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2021-2027), a set of European Research and Innovation Missions aim to deliver solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing Europe. Cancer is one of these challenges. The Mission on Cancer set the EU an ambitious goal and gave a clear focus.

In the healthcare and life sciences industries, innovation ecosystems have emerged in concert with the proliferation of technologies across the care continuum. These are developing in a variety of settings across the globe - some of which were established based on existing healthcare clusters or infrastructure (such as hospital systems and their related and supporting industries), while others were founded upon a concentration of scarce, differentiated talent. Universities could play an important role in the healthcare ecosystems in terms of innovative ideas, prototyping, and further commercialization.

Cluster organizations across the EU are in a favorable position to accelerate that process being ecosystem orchestrators and following the vision for sustainable and effective healthcare systems based on innovation, data and technology. We can #EUnite in diversity to bring innovation to life and to patients.

Rosen Dimitrov

Rosen Dimitrov is Public Affairs Manager at Novartis Bulgaria and Vice-chairperson of the Digital Health and Innovation...
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