DG Research and Innovation Statement from Head of Sector Neuroscience

Launch of the MEP Interest Group “Brain, Mind and Pain”

 24 February 2015


Catherine Berens, Head of Sector Neuroscience
European Commission – DG Research & Innovation – Unit E4 Medical research and the challenge of ageing

Brain and brain diseases under FP7

The financial support to brain and brain diseases reached unprecedented levels under the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). Between 2007 and 2012, more than EUR 1.9 billion was allocated to more than 1200 projects in this area. The analysis for the final year of the programme is being finalised and indicates that the FP7 overall support will be in the order of EUR 3 billion for more than 1900 projects.

Research addressed the areas of brain functions and processes, neurodegenerative diseases and other neurological diseases, neuropsychiatric diseases, rare diseases of neurological origin, as well as public health research.

For example more than EUR 100 million was specifically allocated in the field of pain, including 8 projects stemming from a dedicated topic in 2013 on understanding and controlling pain. Pain research under FP7 aimed to better understand mechanisms underlying pain, develop adequate models, develop and test new analgesic drugs, and develop recommendations to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of opioids medicines in Europe.

The FP7 Health theme supported 138 collaborative brain research projects, with many of these projects still ongoing. The projects have already delivered more than 2000 publications and more than 50 patent applications, with 4 spin-offs created.


Brain research under the Horizon 2020 societal challenge ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’

Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) couples research to innovation, covering all forms of innovation from research to retail. Horizon 2020 focuses amongst others on societal challenges, such as health and an ageing population, and offers simplified access to support compared with previous framework programmes, including more opportunities for small and medium-size enterprises.

Collaborative research on health, including brain and brain diseases research, will be supported under the ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’ societal challenge (SC1), endowed with a global budget around EUR 7.5 billion. The goals of SC1 are to:

  • translate science to benefit citizens;
  • test and demonstrate new healthcare models, approaches and tools;
  • promote healthy and active ageing;
  • improve health outcomes, reduce inequalities;
  • support a competitive health sector.

SC1 adopts a challenge-driven approach, with broad, less prescriptive topics and a stronger focus on end-users compared to FP7. The horizontal nature of this societal challenge, not addressing specific diseases and areas, will help to ensure the cross-fertilisation of disciplines and approaches across the entire spectrum of the health innovation chain.

The first ‘Personalised Health and Care’ call for proposals of SC1, endowed with an indicative global budget of EUR 1.2 billion for the years 2014-2015 focused on 7 areas:

  • Understanding health, ageing and disease
  • Effective health promotion, disease prevention, preparedness and screening
  • Improving diagnosis
  • Innovative treatments and technologies
  • Advancing active and healthy ageing
  • Integrated, sustainable, citizen-centred care
  • Improving health information, data exploitation and providing an evidence base for health policies and regulation

Other opportunities for research on brain and brain diseases also exist in other parts of Horizon 2020 (e.g. under the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2), or under the ‘Excellent science’ and ‘Industrial leadership’ Horizon 2020 priorities).

Brain health research stakeholders are hence encouraged to seize the opportunities offered under Horizon 2020 in order to advance knowledge on brain and brain diseases for the benefit of citizens and healthcare systems.


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