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The challenge of ageing population to be tackled with the first Horizon Prize for Social Innovation

Brussels, 22 October 2015

The challenge of an ageing population has received the biggest support in an open, public vote run by the European Commission, and becomes the topic of the first Horizon Prize for Social Innovation.

Based on this result, the Commission, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank Institute, will launch in early 2016 a Horizon Prize that rewards the innovator or team who comes up with the best solution to address the challenges and opportunities of ageing and to improve the quality of life of senior citizens. Their breakthrough will receive €2 million from Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding programme.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "An ageing population is clearly one of the most important challenges but also opportunities for Europe. Participants in our poll have recognised this. Horizon 2020 already offers substantial funding to research in this area. Now, with this Prize I am sure we will get more people engaged with this topic and new, creative breakthrough solutions to better address the implications of a rapidly ageing population."

Ageing population affects all EU Member States and has an impact in all policy areas. By 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in numbers of over-80s.

The Commission launched the public vote on 16 September. With 32% of votes out of a total of 9685, the challenge of ageing population topped the list of five proposed topics. The other were childhood obesity, integration of immigrants in the labour market, women-led enterprises growing in numbers and size, and community-led clean energy generation.

Social innovations bring forward new solutions that often merge technologies with organisational and social responses. These ultimately increase society’s capacity to react to common challenges. With this new Horizon Prize, the European Commission puts renewed emphasis on societal engagement as a powerful way of generating new responses for ageing.

Background

The EU has already invested hundreds of millions of euros in health-related ageing research and in research on neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's. This is also a key part of the call on personalised medicine with a budget of €659 million, which is included in the recently launched Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-17. Further investment has gone into finding innovative ICT solutions including in the area of robotics. The impact of EU funding in this area is boosted through instruments such as the Active and Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP –AHA). Some of the successful projects were showcased at the EU Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, organised by the Commission earlier this year.

Horizon Prizes are a new kind of inducement prize by the European Commission that offer a cash reward to whoever can most effectively help meet a defined challenge with a breakthrough solution, leaving the contestants total freedom to come up with the most promising solutions. The aim is to engage communities to work towards a common goal, spur interest in a particular issue, attract new, dynamic innovators to an area, mobilise additional private investment for research and innovation, and stimulate novel, replicable solutions to the grand challenges for the benefit of European citizens. In 2015, five Horizon Prizes worth €6 million in total are being launched in the areas of health, environment and ICT under Horizon 2020, the European Union's research and innovation programme (IP/14/849). In 2016, ten new Horizon Prizes will be launched on challenges such as healthy childbirth, novel energy solutions, cleanest engines for transport and food.

The EIB Institute was set up within the European Investment Bank Group to promote initiatives for the common good in Europe, mostly in EU Member States. This includes reducing inequalities, enhancing knowledge, innovation and competitiveness and ensuring cohesion throughout Europe.

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