With an ageing population, an increasing number of European citizens are likely to be affected by mental disorders, dementia or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, at some point in their lives. Putting in place the necessary care infrastructure has therefore become a pressing concern. This is why Neurorescue, funded through the FP7 Research Potential programme, seeks to address mental health issues in a more comprehensive and coordinated way, by bringing together regional mental health expertise to build effective partnerships.
The project, led by the Provence-Alpes-Cöte d'Azur Regional Council, involves the participation of medical clusters located in Bavaria, Germany (Bayern Innovativ and Forum MedTech Pharma), Central Hungary (MediPole), Catalonia, Spain (Parc de Salut) and the Provence-Alpes-Cöte d'Azur and Languedoc -Roussillon regions in France (Eurobiomed).
"The main objective of the project is to set up new models for mental health research that guarantee a systematic multidisciplinary approach," explains project coordinator Christine Loussert from the Provence-Alpes-Cöte d'Azur Regional Council in France. "The project also aims to bridge the gap between research into mental disorders and the implementation of innovative solutions, to improve the everyday life of patients and carers."
Indeed, one objective identified in the project has been to integrate new regional research-driven cluster partners. In order to achieve this, a series of mentoring workshops and dissemination events addressed to European, Eastern and Mediterranean countries has been set up. The ultimate goal is to create new networks and collaborations in the field of mental health research.
By working with leading regional clusters and opening new avenues of dialogue with key stakeholders in this way, the Neurorescue project has sought to establish new models for mental health research that guarantee a systematic multidisciplinary approach. This, says Loussert, is the key, and is why the Neurorescue project is so important. "The most innovative aspect of the project has been the development of a triple-dimension approach, tackling research, economic and social issues," she explains.
Neurorescue has been methodical in achieving its aims. Initially, the project team carried out a SWOT analysis of the mental health-care sector and examined regional capabilities. This was followed by a Joint Action Plan, which identified pathways towards achieving greater integration in neuroscience research. "In order to build the Joint Action Plan, we did a detailed analysis of the state of play at each regional level," says Loussert. The project then sought to identify the best means of implementing the Plan following project completion. "EU financial support for the project has also enabled us to employ qualified people," Loussert adds.
The partners involved in Neurorescue have been keen to promote their achievements and to disseminate their results as widely as possible. "Our dedicated website has been our most efficient tool for communication," says Loussert. "The results and findings from the Neurorescue project have been published on it. And the consortium is currently creating a mapping tool that will appear on-line very soon. This tool will gather the results from the global SWOT analysis, along with access to R&D finance mechanisms."
According to Loussert, the final beneficiaries of all of this will definitely be both the patients and the carers. "Possible practical applications following on from this could be new medical devices, robotics and innovations based on new technologies. These could be used either at home or in hospital to improve the everyday lives of patients." Furthermore, the development of such devices will create opportunities for industry to develop new markets, and increase business in this growing innovative field.