Brussels, 05 April 2002
Biomedical engineering has played a significant role in European Union research and will 'significantly contribute to future efforts', EU Research Commissioner Busquin has said in a letter responding to concerns expressed by biomedical engineers that their discipline was being overlooked in the Framework programmes.
Mr Busquin emphasised the important impact that biomedical engineering has had on European citizens and is likely to have in the future. He explained that the role for biomedical engineers should now be to participate in multidisciplinary projects aimed at tackling issues affecting more of Europe's citizens.
'It is true that this domain [biomedical engineering] did not have, in the Fifth Framework programme, the same visibility it had in the previous exercises, notably because of the formulation in terms of problems to be solved instead of the disciplines. This approach was chosen to ensure that after years of developing networks in their own areas, the scientific communities would learn to become involved in the multidisciplinary projects aiming at solving major challenges for European citizens,' writes Mr Busquin.
Such critical mass and integrated efforts are two of the aims of the next Framework programme, FP6, underlined the Commissioner, saying that funding will be directed to a 'select number of priorities that present clear European added value.' One such priority is 'Genomics and biotechnology for health'.
Mr Busquin encouraged biomedical engineers to play a full part in FP6 as well as in helping to establish and participate in the European research area (ERA), the establishment of which should be realised through the implementation of FP6. He highlighted some of areas where such biomedical engineers could play a valuable role in FP6: the development of improved patient-orientated strategies, prevention, diagnosis and treatment for combating cancer and developing intelligent systems aimed at supporting health professionals to provide patients with personalised healthcare and information.
The Commissioner claimed that recent developments in the biomedical field support his belief that 'engineers will also significantly contribute to our future efforts,' citing the recent submission of a proposal for a 'cartography of biomedical engineering in Europe' to FP5's Quality of life programme. The proposal has received an 'extremely favourable evaluation' according to Mr Busquin, 'and has therefore a chance of being retained for funding.'
Mr Busquin drew biomedical engineers' attention to the publication on 20 March of the first call for expressions of interest for FP6, which provides the biomedical engineering community with an opportunity to propose research topics along the action lines described above.
The Commissioner's letter is a response to a letter sent to him in March and signed by nearly 300 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. In the letter, scientists claimed that whilst biomedical engineering had a specific action dedicated to it in the Fourth Framework programme, and while biomedical engineers have been able to play an integral and multidisciplinary role in many of the Fifth Framework's projects, particularly under its quality of life programme, FP6 offered little for them.
To see Commissioner Busquin's letter, please consult the following web address: ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/cordis/docs/news/viceconti.468.pdf