On May 25, the "Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2025-2027 analysis", a preparatory study in preparation for the publication of the next Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2025-2027, was published - link.
The analysis is the result of a co-creation process between the internal services of the European Commission and the EU Member States. It will serve as a common analytical foundation for development of the next Horizon Europe Strategic Plan and as support for the Commission to prepare for the last two years of the Research and Innovation (R&I) Framework Programme (2025-2027).
The paper analyzes the current state of R&I in the EU and assesses what changes would be needed in light of the first Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024. The analysis examines developments with respect to future global challenges and provides examples of the role R&I plays in addressing them. It also incorporates the results of the recent public consultation on the future of European R&I, and other data collected through citizen and stakeholder engagement. Finally, the analysis provides an overview of current R&I activities and identifies existing gaps using Horizon Europe implementation data.
Regarding health, in terms of future trends, challenges and opportunities, the analysis points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly increased awareness of individual, social, economic and political risks associated with health threats.
As major future challenges, the report points out the simultaneous increase in noncommunicable diseases (due to the aging demographic of the baby boomer generation), and health threats associated with antibiotic-resistant microbes. Other trends equally covered in the analysis are the relationships between ecology, environmental health and human health (OneHealth); the resilience and digital transformation of health and care systems; the use of artificial intelligence in the medical sector; mental health.
A future with so many threats is an important socioeconomic challenge in relation to appropriately directing the resources of healthcare systems and pharmaceutical industries to ensure fair and socially desirable outcomes.
Finally, the analysis shows that thanks to new threats and increasing medical possibilities, society’s expectations from healthcare systems are increasing, in terms of both effectiveness and speed of innovation and change.
Regarding the results of public consultations published in April the key topics identified by stakeholders in Health are:
- Cancer (prevention, cure, treatment, personalized medicine, vaccine development, targeted therapies, aggressive cancers);
- Rare diseases (diagnostics, treatment);
- Dementia (prevention, treatment);
- Cardiovascular diseases (prevention, treatment);
- Autoimmunity and degenerative diseases (prevention, treatment);
- Infectious diseases (prevention, treatment, viral control);
- Chronic diseases (new remedies);
- Development of new diagnostics, vaccines and therapies against neglected diseases;
- Alzheimer's disease (treatment);
- Antimicrobial resistance;
- Multidisciplinary approach to health research, including artificial intelligence-assisted medical diagnosis.
Finally, particularly interesting is the analysis of research gaps identified by the Commission, which indicates what might be the next "destinations" within Horizon Cluster 1 for the 2025-2027 biennium. Worth noticing is that the THCS Partnership is clearly mentioned in this exercise: possible gaps in healthcare systems research and innovation will mostly depend on the content of calls and activities launched under the partnership.
Health throughout the life course
- Prenatal, neonatal, maternal and paternal health are insufficiently covered.
- R & I for planning, implementing and monitoring rehabilitation throughout the life course, especially in children are not addressed.
- Mental health is well covered. However, it is a rapidly growing challenge exacerbated by climate change, digital stress, mental health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mental health was also highlighted as a main priority in the State of the Union address 2022.
Environmental and social health determinants
- Environmental risk factors in occupational settings are insufficiently covered – exposure to hazardous substances (including nanomaterials) or biological agents in occupational environments and adverse health outcomes.
- Health consequences of climate change and climate adaptation measures are insufficiently covered, as the topic is very broad and of growing importance. (This topic has also not been properly addressed across previous framework programmes.)
Non-communicable and rare diseases
- Understanding and management of multimorbidities are insufficiently covered.
- Rehabilitation is not covered – effective approaches for acute or chronic health conditions.
- A potential future brain health research partnership is to be considered for the 2025 – 2027 strategic plan.
Infectious diseases, including poverty-related and neglected diseases
- There is a potential gap on the impact of the evolution of ecosystems on the dynamics of infectious diseases.
- Pandemic preparedness and response will need further investments, including those to ensure the development of appropriate medical countermeasures for serious cross-border health threats.
- There is need to address low vaccine uptake, understand vaccine hesitancy and build vaccine confidence.
- There is a potential gap on transborder aspects of infectious diseases – relation to migratory flows and increased human mobility in general.
Tools, technologies and
digital solutions for health and care, including personalised medicine
- Cross-sectoral cooperation of key stakeholders could be strengthened.
- Integrated tools and hybrid health technologies are to be further explored, as the field is broad and very dynamic.
- Deployment and procurements need to be revisited
- Possible gaps will depend on the content of calls and activities launched under the partnership on transforming health and care systems. The partnership will focus on key challenges for the resilience of health and care systems. Priority areas will be integrated care, person-centred care, workforce skills, financing and governance, digitalisation, quality of care and patient safety.