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Horizon 2020 Health Info Day: what did we learn?

July 15 2016

ttopstart was present at the Horizon 2020 Info Day – Health, demographic change and wellbeing. The final Work Programme for 2017 will be adopted end of this month, and this info day provided the perfect opportunity to discuss upcoming calls and changes to the programme. We especially applaud the European Commission for allocating extra budget to several interesting topics and the SME instrument funding scheme. Here, we highlight several of the key take-home messages of the Horizon 2020 Info Day. 

With sessions dedicated to ICT, infectious diseases, personalised medicine, regenerative medicine, clinical trials, healthy ageing and more (see agenda here), the programme covered the most relevant challenges associated to ‘Health, demographic change and well-being’.

Good news! The budget for calls PM-02 (‘new concepts in patient stratification’), PM-08 (‘new therapies for rare diseases’) and PM-10 (‘comparing effectiveness of existing healthcare interventions’) will be increased with €13 million.

The pre-proposals for these calls should be submitted before 4 October 2016. The session on clinical trials emphasised that, although no clinical trial template is available for stage I applications, you should already show a realistic plan for recruitment and study conduct. Although the Commission has been very generous, there is no guarantee that the Grant Agreement will not be terminated and/or EU contribution significantly reduced if a study cannot proceed as planned. Extensions of project duration can generally not be granted in H2020. Be sure to include a strong risk mitigation plan with an alternative solution, to not lose your EU funding. Furthermore, the Commission will accept a CRO as subcontractor, if a clinical study is not the main activity of the project. The general expertise of your project should always be available within consortium, such as study design, high-level study management and oversight. A final tip: for an explanation on how to use ‘unit costs’ a clear webinar is available here. If you want to use unit costs in your clinical trial be sure to describe them in detail in your proposal, as they are part of the reviewing process. The EC is aware of the difficulty of calculating unit costs correctly, and therefore errors will not influence the evaluation of your proposal.

The EC also touched upon the success of the SME instrument programme, which has been designed to allow small and medium-sized enterprises to prepare for commercialisation of their products.

Although impact for grantees is immense, the success rates of this programme have typically been quite low. Many SMEs have gotten a chance to determine the feasibility of their product in a Phase 1 instrument, but the possibilities to prepare for exploitation in Phase 2 were limited. The EC claims to have ‘learned their lesson’, and has added an extra €35 million to the SMEInst-5 budget. These extra funds should allow 10 additional Phase 2 projects to be funded. The next Phase 2 deadline for ‘development of cell technologies in medical applications’ is 13 October 2016. Furthermore, the first deadline in 2017 (18 January 2017) will also allow the submission of Phase 2 projects under the old PHC-12 topic ‘validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices’.

Unfortunately, the future of the Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) scheme is less clear. Whether this pilot will be continued in 2017 will hopefully be communicated by the end of the year. 

The EC also promoted the new financing scheme InnovFin, that provides loans in the range of €7.5 million to €20 million in a joint initiative with the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and EIF). InnovFin will finance of to 50% of investment costs and offers a range of tailored financial products for research and innovation. Eligible companies are developing products that are preferably in early stage clinical development and require clinical validation.  

In light of Brexit, the EC has stated that before and during negotiations with the United Kingdom, it will be treated like any other organisation from an EU member state in a call for proposals or call for tender. What happens at the end of the negotiations will depend on the agreements reached and can currently not be predicted.

The new Horizon 2020 Work Programme for 2018-2019 is set to be released in the 4th quarter of 2017. Do you want to know more about the upcoming funding opportunities in Horizon 2020?

Contact us here, or watch the entire Horizon 2020 Health Info Day event here.

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Karlijn Bastiaansen, PhD