September 2019

Europe is facing unprecedented challenges to guarantee sustainable and accessible healthcare solutions for its citizens. Research and Innovation will be instrumental to develop new approaches as well as to increase the knowledge, understanding and know-how that underpin innovation for promoting health and for preventing, treating and curing diseases.

The European Society of Radiology (ESR), representing the radiology profession across Europe, welcomes the progress made by the European Parliament and the Member States in defining the strategic priorities of the EU’s new framework programme for research & innovation ‘Horizon Europe’ and its aim to elevate research and innovation in the European Union. The ESR supports Horizon Europe’s focus on unleashing the potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions in healthcare. Medical imaging has successfully integrated innovative solutions and artificial intelligence into the discipline to offer interoperable and cost-effective solutions to healthcare systems and high-quality personalised patient care. Moreover, it can contribute significantly to the areas of intervention laid out in existing and future EU research programmes. Indeed, advanced application of health data and artificial intelligence in medical imaging can help decision-making by improving image interpretation and enabling early diagnosis, more effective disease prevention and accelerated treatments for patients.

The ESR also strongly supports the EU research mission on Cancer, launched in the framework of Horizon Europe to better pool resources for cancer research, as it holds yet untapped potential to generate transformative solutions in cancer prevention, prediction, detection, diagnosis and treatment. We believe that medical imaging could be a strong driver in the mission as continued innovations in the sector, applying the full potential of AI, big data and machine-learning, would result in more integrated and person-centred approaches accelerating and improving the detection and diagnosis of cancer. The appointment of a radiologist and oncology expert, Prof. Regina Beets-Tan, to the Cancer Mission Board is a first step towards an EU cancer research agenda that acknowledges the key role of imaging and technological innovation in cancer care and high societal impact of investments in screening, detection and early diagnosis. Working in close synergy with other cancer professionals and the patient community, the ESR is more than ever supportive of an ambitious multidisciplinary and multinational cancer research agenda putting patient-centred outcomes at the core of the debate and strengthening Europe’s lead position in health research.

The ESR furthermore welcomes the creation of the new public-private partnership, the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) that succeeds the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Medical imaging has a significant role to play in the new public-private partnership that has rightly broadened its scope of action by including medical imaging and diagnostics and thus elevating the standards of health research in the European Union. Medical imaging is at the forefront of technological innovation and thus driving advances in health research resulting in medical breakthroughs to the benefit of clinical practice and enabling a shift from treatment to health promotion and disease prevention.

To this end, the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research (EIBIR), the research management organisation established by the ESR offering support services to scientists in the field, has published a Strategic Research Agenda identifying pressing needs in medicine and illustrating how medical imaging can contribute to overcoming existing challenges in healthcare as identified by the European Commission. The Strategic Research Agenda advocates for the swift implementation of practical solutions to make best use of medical imaging to shift from a reactive and treatment-based system to prevention and personalised approaches. A comprehensive research agenda, taking also into account external factors affecting people’s health, is central to developing targeted research and approaches for individualised therapies. Next to the development and application of innovative medical imaging technologies, it is crucial to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence and interoperable solutions for big data in medical imaging to put into practice personalised approaches for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s healthcare industry.

Medical imaging should firmly be embedded in transnational, national and regional initiatives to enable the translation of innovative solutions into clinical practice. In view of the new framework programme, Horizon Europe, the ESR encourages politicians to even raise the level of ambition for dedicated research to make healthcare systems more resilient and enhance Europe’s leading position in the field of research and innovation. Considering forthcoming decisions defining research priorities in Europe, the ESR is ready to engage with stakeholders, the EU institutions and Member States and extend its expertise on medical imaging and health research, as laid out in the Strategic Research Agenda, to shape Horizon Europe and associated initiatives. Only through a partnership between industry, the medical professions, academia and the patient community, Europe can uphold the sustainability of healthcare systems and guide the transition to personalised and patient-centred healthcare. 

Contact information
Mr. Jonas van Riet
European Society of Radiology - ESR
Department of European and International Affairs
[email protected]