Healthy ageing: key research and innovation challenges in Europe

 ‘A stimulating series of presentations which provided insights into new funding opportunities and new European initiatives demonstrating that Europe is recognizing and addressing the challenges of healthy ageing.’
Professor Helen Griffiths, Aston University

‘This was an excellent overview of policies and programmes and gave practical insights into regional activities in the field of e-health and healthy ageing.’ 
Chris Fuller, Coventry University

On 5th November 75 participants from regional, academic and health-related professions  filled the refurbished West Midlands in Europe meeting room to hear five expert speakers discuss various aspects of a key societal challenge for Europe – healthy ageing.

Richard Tuffs, European Policy manger for West Midlands in Europe welcomed participants to the meeting along with Professor Helen Griffiths who reminded the audience of Aston University’s involvement in Europe and the importance of the topic of ageing which has prompted Aston University to invest €3.3 million in a new centre for Healthy Ageing. This new centre was keen to know about EU policy, programme, raise its profile in Europe and seek future partners for European projects.

Manuel Hallen, Head of the Medical & Public Health Research Unit in DG Research in the European Commission

Manuel outlined the need for more research on neurodegenerative diseases and introduced the new European Alzheimer’s Joint Programming Initiative which should be approved by the European Council in December 2009. This new initiative involves some twenty Member States voluntarily engaging in developing common strategic research agendas in order to maximise value of national investments in research on Alzheimer’s.

Peter Wintlev-Jensen, Head of Sector for ICT for Inclusion at DG Information Society in the European Commission

Peter gave an overview of the ICT and ageing with a specific reference to the projects started under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. These eleven projects with a value of €32 million involve 40 regions in the EU.  Demographic ageing will be a key priority under the new Commission with social innovation playing a strong role in the Commission’s new Innovation Strategy to be published in 2010.

Silas Olsson from the Central Management Unit of the Ambient Assisted Living Programme

Silas presented the Ambient Assisted Living Programme. The objective of this programme is to enhance the quality of life for older people and to develop a critical mass in Europe for assistive technologies and involves both the Commission and Member States who jointly contribute funding. Two calls have already been published and over 50 projects have been selected for funding. Each call has a budget of around €55-60 million per year. One feature of the Ambient Assisted Living Programme is that each project must involve an SME and an end-user organizer as projects should aim to get a product or process on the market by the end of the project.

Professor Helen Griffiths from the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA)

Helen outlined the research agenda of the unit. Professor Griffiths showed how ARCHA was developing its activities under prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. ARCHA is conducting research into Alzheimer’s disease. This was a good opportunity to profile ARCHA and Professor Griffiths was enthusiastic in the value of the event which she saw as a ‘stimulating series of presentations which provided insights into new funding opportunities and new European initiatives demonstrating that Europe is recognizing and addressing the challenges of healthy ageing.’

Morten Bierbaum, Vice Director of the South Denmark Welfare Tech Region

Morten presented a brand new concept of a region which had the objective of creating wealth in the region via welfare technology. Supporting project and product development ‘will ensure that the region of South Denmark becomes an international centre for developing and implementing welfare technology.’ The region is targeting four areas- intelligent aid products, robotics, telemedicine and ICT.  With a budget of €10.3 million, of which €6.9 million from ERDF funding, the region is seeking partners to help it develop its ambitious project and product development targets.

For further information on Aston's research into healthy ageing got to the
Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA).

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