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Improving the Quality of Life

Improving the Quality of Life through Research

The explosive growth in our understanding of the structure and working of life has brought about vast new developments in health care, pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture. But the challenges ahead, from the reappearance of once-conquered diseases to the unsustainable use of natural resources, leave no room for complacency.

The gap between human activities and the capacity of the natural resources upon which they depend is steadily widening. Environmental degradation is feeding back into new health problems for society while health-care costs spiral upwards, aggravated by an ageing population. The emergence of new viral diseases such as AIDS - and the reappearance of once-conquered diseases - is a global problem. Breakthroughs in the life sciences open radically new ways to address these challenges. They can also boost economic growth and employment by improving the competitiveness of our industries - although they often raise new ethical concerns.

Building on Strengths
Europe, fortunately, has a strong tradition and an excellent record in life sciences research at a national level. Less fortunate, however, is the fact that scientific capacity at this level is often not enough to cope with the increasing scale and complexity of life science research. To make further progress at the cutting edge, Europe's research institutes and companies must be able to draw on the resources of the continent as a whole.
While the European Union has been helping them do just that for little more than a decade, the wide array of cooperative projects and research networks it has supported have already revolutionised the way many European scientists work and produced some startling results.
The Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources research programme is intensifying this collaboration to break down the barriers between researchers and companies in different European countries even further. Like all programmes forming the European Union's Fifth Framework Programme for research (1998-2002), it aims to turn Europe's scientific capacity into competitive and marketable products which improve the quality of life, reinforce the competitiveness of industry and protect the environment.
The programme's overall theme is to bring the life sciences closer to both industry and society. While it does not ignore basic research, it focuses most of its resources on a small number of "key actions", each tackling a single major challenge facing European society - health, the use of natural resources, and the competitiveness of industry and employment. By marshalling Europe's scientific and industrial resources in multidisciplinary, transnational research teams, it will play a considerable part in improving the quality of our lives - now and in the future.

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