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Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation in Health 2012-2015 aims to boost BioRegion of Catalonia

An advisory board, made up of various figures and experts from the sector, has established policy priorities for the coming years.

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By Biocat

The advisory board that has participated actively in establishing the Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation in Health 2012-2015 in Catalonia met on 22 November at the Palau de la Generalitat to set the course for policies that affect this sector. As per the Government’s request, the Advisory Board for Research and Innovation in Health is made up of directors of innovation from various hospitals and hospital foundations in Catalonia, in addition to other figures including Biocat CEO Dr. Montserrat Vendrell. Ministers Andreu Mas-Colell and Boi Ruiz presided over the first meeting.

One of the objectives of this plan, approved by the Catalan Government in October, is to help shorten the time from when research findings are obtained and when they are applied in clinical practice. It also aims to encourage a culture of innovation and transfer among researchers and healthcare professionals in order to optimize resources available and obtain new therapies, cures, diagnostic technology, healthcare protocols, preventative or promotional strategies, and more efficient and sustainable organizational models. 

The plan has been coordinated by Dr. Marta Aymerich, head of Research and Innovation in the Department of Health. It is broken down into five focal points through which actions will be carried out:

  • Integrating policies for research and innovation in health with those already in place in Catalonia,
  • investing efficiently in research of excellence in health, 
  • boosting the BioRegion of Catalonia,
  • promoting knowledge transfer and assessing the impact of research, 
  • and incentivizing innovation in healthcare organizations.

The strategic orientation of this plan is laid out under the framework of the Europe 2020 strategy, which has investment in research, innovation and entrepreneurship at its core and is a crucial part of European reaction to the economic crisis. To this end, the European Union’s RIS3 strategies (Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization) in each territory are key elements. The Government of Catalonia is currently developing the RIS3 strategy and this plan will be adapted to it as priorities and actions are defined for the 2014-2020 period.

Potential of research and innovation in health?

According to the 2011 Biocat Report, the sector employs some 30,000 people and is made up of more than 480 biotechnology, pharmaceutical, innovative medical technology and service companies; 435 research groups; 80 research centers; 20 science and technology parks, 9 of which are devoted to the life sciences; 15 leading research hospitals; and large-scale facilities like the ALBA synchrotron, the Mare Nostrum Supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the National Center for Genome Analysis (CNAG).

Of the Government of Catalonia’s 47 CERCA centers, 20 work in the field of health. Of these, 9 are translational research institutes (located next to a research hospital), 2 are public-health research centers, 4 are basic biomedical research centers, and the other 5 focus on specific diseases (cancer, AIDS, leukemia and cardiovascular diseases).

Catalan scientific productivity in health research has increased steadily in recent years. Catalan publications now make up 2.35% of the global total and 7.67% of the European total (and 30% of the Spanish total). Additionally, according to data from the SIR World Report 2010, research hospitals and research centers in health in Catalonia are ranked above the global average in terms of their impact.

However, despite this relatively positive positioning of the research system, there is still much work to be done in terms of transferring results and being able to objectively weigh the impact of research on society.

Members of the advisory board after the first meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat.