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Teresa Riera Madurell MEP
Mr. Stefan Oschmann,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m very happy to be here with all of you today.
Before I came I was trying to think about what the IMI really means for Europe. And I really think that it comes down to one thing, it’s about a new type of collaboration. We have talked a lot about examples of radical innovation but not as often about examples of radical collaboration!
You know, I read a lot of books about the history of science in my job, and when I was thinking about your anniversary it reminded me of a story I read about the city of Toledo in the centre of Spain just south of Madrid.
From the tenth to the twelfth century there was a huge movement there to translate Arabic texts into Latin. Because the Arabic texts were the ones that held the key to science and philosophy from Ancient Greece from over a thousand years before.
Many of the classical works of ancient Greece had been translated into Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age of science and spread to the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. But in Europe, scholars had focused on Latin and a lot of the Greek knowledge had been lost.
Translating these texts was a way to bring the knowledge back to Europe.
It was a complete rediscovery of scientists like Archimedes, Aristotle, Ptolemy. And it’s probably the reason that I can walk into a book shop today and pick up a copy of Plato’s philosophies.
So if it weren’t for this group of translators, we might have lost all of this knowledge and learning from Ancient times.
You have to imagine that people travelled thousands of miles from all over Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East to help with the translation.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars.
Scholars from different countries and ethnicities.
Communities who would rarely mix flocked to the town and lived and worked alongside each other to make sure that the old knowledge would never be lost.
I think they did this because they had a balcony view of collaborating.
When I say “the balcony view” I mean they were looking into the far distance, into the future. They put aside their short-term needs and rivalries because they could see the long-term benefits and a greater collective vision.
That’s what the scholars who came to Toledo practiced. And I think we have done the same with the IMI.
Somehow when you look at the way that the public and private sector, and competitors, came together because they understood and saw the bigger picture.
They knew collaborating would make them stronger.
Make their sector stronger.
And could change how we see innovation in health.
It has brought some really excellent results. And that’s what we are here to celebrate today.
The first result, for me is the most significant. And it’s the most intangible. IMI means a complete change in culture, just like the scholars who went to Toledo.
We have to take a step back and realise how incredible this really is.
In the health sector everybody belongs to a tribe. Especially in Brussels. Even today in the room I know we have academia, private sector, public sector, associations. And the fact is that the IMI managed to get everyone around the same table with the same goal.
We’re not just talking about collaboration between public and private. We’re also talking about collaboration among rivals and competitors in the private sector. And that is something that is really exceptional, because competition is in your nature.
Maybe collaboration is the new competition!
Geoff Colvin argues in his book “Humans are Underrated” that the most critical skill in the 21st century is empathy, because we need to be open to others to have the most impact.
Today, competitive advantage is not driven by the resources you control, but those you can access...The path to success no longer lies in clawing your way to the top of the heap, but in nudging your way to the centre of the network.
So I think this strategy worked for IMI and it worked for improving the health of patients in Europe and all over the world.
The second result is a tangible result. And its just as impressive. Because the IMI means a real difference to the lives of patients in Europe and all over the world.
The IMI has brought us:
- 35 new validated drug targets,
- more than 300 biomarkers in development
- and 300 new computer based models
Because of the IMI we have a vaccine candidate for Ebola. Now it is in the final phase of clinical development. And the Mofina project has developed a device that is portable and can diagnose Ebola in less than 75 minutes.
These innovations exist because you were willing to come together to share the risks. We all know that for Ebola, and other areas like AMR and rare tropical diseases, there is a low return on investment for the private sector. But the IMI cleared the path for industry to get involved.
IMI also means that European innovation is open to the world. Industry is global by nature. By creating a stronger link between the public and private sector, we can tap into a wider global network. So European health innovation is more competitive.
I hope that as many of you as possible take a look at the exhibition here today; you can see some of the most impressive results from IMI for yourself.
So I hope I’m painting you a picture of a real European success story. The last ten years have led us to this point.
The big question now is where do we go from here?
As you know we have just adopted Horizon Europe where we are proposing the biggest ever increase to research and innovation funding. 100 billion euro in total.
The next months are going to be critical in defining the future of the IMI partnership.
What I can say today is that IMI is not a done deal. It’s a work in progress. It needs to be adapted, made more agile, and we need to see how we can involve SME’s more, and other like-minded bodies.
Most importantly, today and in the months ahead, I want to hear your views. I want to hear your views on what the future of this partnership will look like. And how you are willing to take part.
IMI is the biggest public-private partnership for health in the world. And the word on everyone’s lips today should be success. If you want that success to continue:
Keep nudging to the centre of the network like Colvin says.
Keep climbing up to that balcony and focusing on the long term, collective vision.