French official calls on businesses to strengthen ties with Europe


France is fifth in the world in terms of medical research. [AIDSVaccine/Flickr]

The French Minister for Higher Education and Research laments France’s limited participation in European research programmes. She believes European research is too fragmented. EURACTIV France reports

France is the world’s fifth most important medical researcher. This ranking is a testament to “the quality of biological and health research” in France, according to the Minister for Higher Education and Research, Geneviève Fioraso. She was present at a meeting of the G5 Health Association, an assembly of the main French companies in the domain of health and life sciences.

If France is already an attractive country for private investors in fundamental and clinical research, Geneviève Fioraso highlights the importance of maintaining and increasing the level of research excellence. The ring-fencing of the public research budget, announced by François Hollande in April, will help the government to achieve this goal, and to show the world that innovation in research is at the heart of France’s priorities.

According to the Minister, of the 16 billion euros of public investment in research in 2013, almost 2.5 billion were dedicated to the domain of life sciences and health. Investment in future projects is also a priority. A member of the French government said “we will continue to funs 190 projects with a total of 1.9 billion euro over the next ten years”.

Europe’s system is still “too fragmented”

The French and European system of research and the transfer of technology to industry lack flexibility, according to Geneviève Fioraso. “It is still too fragmented, even if exchanges are more fluid in health research than in other sectors.” Fioraso has called for the education and research systems to put greater emphasis on interdisciplinary work and information exchange.

>> Read: Minister: ‘Research activities must become interdisciplinary’

“We need to rediscover the daring spirit of discovery and initiative in Europe, to engage in the sectors of the future, with interdisciplinary teams integrating the human and social sciences,” the Minister said.

Geneviève Fioraso thinks that the system should prioritise the needs of patients. She recognises that this represents a challenge for society, saying “cost restrictions in innovation mean we have to find new economic models to ensure the benefits are enjoyed by the largest number of people”.

>> Read: Experts say the time is now to invest in healthcare innovation

Low French participation in Horizon 2020

Geneviève Fioraso also expressed her regret at France’s low level of participation in European projects, and would like to see greater French involvement in the Horizon 2020 programme. She said, “if our return (11%) was equal to our contribution (16.8%), we would gain 700 million euro per year, as well as benefiting from a more solid European network and greater international prestige”.

Ruxandra Draghia, the Director of Health in the European Commission’s DG Research, said “the main problem is the lack of French applications to the Commission’s calls for tenders”.

>> Read: Parliament adopts third health programme for 2014-2020

Horizon 2020 is one of the principle pillars of European Union innovation, a flag-ship strategy of "Europe 2020", aimed at reinforcing Europe's competitiveness on the global markets. If the European Union is the world leader in a number of technologies, it faces growing competition from traditional powers as well as emerging economies.

Worth nearly 80 billion euro over seven years, Horizon 2020 is the European Union's largest ever financial framework for research and innovation. 

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