The EU's 27 ministers in charge of competitiveness yesterday (9 March) endorsed European Commission proposals to launch a European innovation partnership on active and healthy ageing.
The goal of the partnership, which will involve private and public partners, is to increase the life expectancy of Europeans by an average of two years by 2020.
The initiative is the first pilot partnership adopted under the 'Europe 2020' flagship initiative for an Innovation Union and seeks to find solutions to societal challenges, while nurturing a competitive advantage for EU businesses in key markets related to ageing.
The partnership aims to enable EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while they age, as well as improve the sustainability and efficiency of social welfare and healthcare systems. It also seeks to create new business opportunities by boosting markets for innovative products and services which respond to the challenge of ageing.
The pilot plans to achieve these goals by bringing together key stakeholders from the demand and supply side to work on research, innovation and standardisation issues. They will also try to identify potential barriers to innovation that are related to ageing in an effort to improve uptake.
Research on ageing
According to the Commission, the partnership "has a strong research component, where possible resulting in new medicines for the elderly, new treatments or diagnostic tools, new institutional or organisational approaches and new solutions allowing for a better quality of life for the elderly".
The research effort could involve new EU-funded projects or simply coordinate existing programmes, as is already the case for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.
The Commission is expected to draw up recommendations for a strategic implementation plan regarding the pilot in summer 2011. On the basis of the plan, different initiatives can then be put forward to implement the partnership.
2012: European year for active ageing
In a parallel move, the European Commission proposed that 2012 be designated the European Year for Active Ageing to serve as a framework for raising awareness, identifying good practices and encouraging policymakers and stakeholders to promote active ageing.
The idea is to help create better job opportunities and working conditions for the growing number of older people in Europe and help them to play an active role in society.
The European Parliament is expected to endorse the proposal later this spring, before the Council gives its final approval in June.