The Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) held its launch event online, on 26 January 2022. It aims to build on the successes of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The IHI is still a European public-private partnership dedicated to advancing health research and innovation, but working across a broader range of sectors, with new partners and an updated governance structure. Meanwhile it will keep supporting the projects launched under IMI.
The IMI started life in 2008 as a public-private partnership (PPP) between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry. The initiative proved successful, and in 2014 the IMI2 programme was launched. The IMI1 and IMI2 programmes resulted in almost 200 projects covering a wide range of disease areas and addressing challenges across all areas of medical research and drug development. Meanwhile science is driving new avenues of research and development often spanning different sectors within the life-science community, and it is clear that future breakthroughs in medical science will involve cross-sectoral discoveries, such as medical device / drug combinations or diagnostics based on artificial intelligence. With the end of the IMI2 programme in sight, and aware of the growing importance of cross-sectoral cooperation, the European Commission decided to launch a new PPP in health. In February 2021, the Commission released its proposal to create the IHI. The proposal was formally approved by Council of the European Union, which represents EU Member States, in November 2021.
The IHI is designed to build on what worked well in IMI, address the lessons learnt, and leverage the benefits of cross-sectoral collaboration in research and innovation to better respond to current and emerging health needs. In practice, all of this means that while some elements will stay while other things are changing significantly. Here are some of the main similarities and differences:
• As was the case in IMI, the ‘public’ member in the partnership is the European Union, represented by the European Commission.
• The industry members are COCIR, EFPIA (including Vaccines Europe), EuropaBio and MedTech Europe, taking IHI beyond the pharmaceutical industry and bringing on board the medical technology, biotechnology, digital health and vaccine industries.
• As in IMI, the EU will provide 50 % of the funding for IHI, and the industry members will contribute the other 50%, primarily through 'in-kind' contributions.
• IMI started with a strong focus on the pharmaceutical sector, but with growing numbers of projects in fields such as digital health, big data and imaging, the IHI plans to support truly cross-sectoral projects involving the biopharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology sectors, including companies active in the digital area.
• Like IMI, IHI has a Governing Board made up of equal numbers of representatives from the European Commission and the industry partners, plus a States Representatives Group (SRG) comprising representatives of EU Member States plus countries associated to Horizon Europe.
• New under IHI is the Science and Innovation Panel, an advisory body that will bring together representatives of the scientific community and the wider health sector.
• Like IMI, IHI will work by running open, competitive Calls for proposals, and will continue to publish draft topic texts before the Call launch to give applicants additional time to work on their proposals.
• As in IMI, IHI will bring together diverse stakeholders (universities, companies large and small, and other health stakeholders) in collaborative projects that address disease areas where there is a big impact on patients and/or society.
However, IHI expects to launch a larger proportion of truly cross-sectoral projects involving new stakeholders representing the other industry sectors. It was also made clear at the launch, and on the IHI website, that the IHI Programme Office will continue to manage the IMI projects, many of which still have years to run. Executive Director Jean Georges and Project Communications Officer Chris Bintener represented Alzheimer Europe at the IHI launch event. Find out more, on the IHI website: