Brussels, 12 March 2002
More opportunities are needed to involve biomedical engineers in the Sixth Framework programme (FP6), according to an open letter sent to EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.
The letter is signed by 108 scientists and researchers from all over the EU, as well as representatives from third countries such as the USA, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland, the Ukraine and Israel. It claims that biomedical engineering had a specific action dedicated to it in the Fourth Framework programme and biomedical engineers could play an integral and multidisciplinary role in many of the Fifth Framework's projects, particularly under its quality of life programme, but FP6 offers little or nothing for them.
'Many of us were confident that the role of biomedical engineering would be acknowledged in the new Framework programme. Biomedical engineering research is one of the few research fields that easily combines social and economic goals...Based on the information currently available such great expectations will not be fulfilled,' reads the letter.
The signatories go on to suggest four actions be taken to address the issue of a lack of biomedical engineering involvement in the Framework programme. Firstly, it recommends that the Commission establish a European institute of health, which contains an institute for medical and biological engineering research. Secondly, the Commission should extend the concept of biotechnology to all technologies related to biotechnological research. Thirdly, the Commission should consider biomedical engineering as one of the key topics around which the European research area (ERA) should be developed. Finally, the Commission should include biotechnology outcome studies with policy-oriented research in the eighth priority of FP6, 'Anticipating scientific and technological needs.'
The letter claims that the opportunities afforded by European Commission research grants give biomedical engineers an opportunity to work 'outside the logic of power lobbies and asphyxiating academic traditions so common in some of the Member States.' It warns that 'biomedical engineers may be able to live without the European framework programme, but we doubt Europe can live and prosper without biomedical engineering.'
A Commission spokesperson said that a full reaction to the letter would only be available after the Commission had received the results of a call on accompanying measures in this area, which may yield some new projects.
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