Health issues are not usually limited to a single country, and often have an international character. ZonMw takes international collaboration seriously. At the international level, there are also more opportunities to combine funds, knowledge and experience.
ZonMw is a co-creating party in European research programming. This collaboration serves an international goal, but also a Dutch one: by participating in these programmes we can create better opportunities for Dutch research groups to deploy their talents internationally. The three main European research instruments for member state driven funding collaborations are
- Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs),
- Research Infrastructures
A JPI is a multi-member state initiative around a given societal challenge. Ten JPIs have been developed, four of which are related to health:
- Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life
- Antimicrobial Resistance
- More Years, Better Lives
- Neurodegenerative disease
For each of these challenges, a number of countries have developed a collective vision and drawn up a strategic research agenda. This not only deals with research, but also with sharing expertise and facilities. JPIs receive initial support from Brussels for their organisation; the countries themselves fund their research and other activities. On behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport, ZonMw is a member of four JPIs: Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (also Ministry of Economic Affairs), Antimicrobial Resistance, More Years, Better Lives (also Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment) and Neurodegenerative Disease.
An ERA-NET is a joint initiative by a number of EU member states, who submit an application for this purpose to the European Commission. To be accepted by the EC, the ERA-NET goals relate closely to Horizon 2020, the European agenda for research and innovation. An ERA-NET plans its joint research call(s) around a specific theme. One of the ERA-NETs in which ZonMw participates is ERANID, whose work is directed towards making more information available on illegal drugs and doing research in areas where new knowledge is needed. ERANID also promotes cooperation between different scientific disciplines and European countries.
Research infrastructures are facilities, resources and services that are used by the research communities to conduct top-level research and foster innovation in their respective fields. Given the increasing need for large-scale research infrastructures, individual institutions and even countries are finding it difficult to fund and manage these centers. So, countries have to collaborate. ZonMw does this at the national as well as the international level. At the national level, we participate in the National Roadmap Large-scale Research Facilities. At the international level, we take part in the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). In particular, ZonMw is is involved with the followingResearch Infrastructures (often in collaboration with NWO):
- BBMRI – biobanks en biomolecular source material,
- EATRIS –translational research,
- ELIXIR - infrastructure for open data for biological and medical research,
- EuroBioImaging - biological and medical imagery.
We support Dutch researchers and institutions so that they can play a meaningful role in these European infrastructures. Moreover, we embrace the goal to bundle a number of these infrastructures under the provisional title HealthRI. In this way, we will create a one-stop-shop for (aspiring) researchers within the broad field of personalized medicine. The Netherlands is at the forefront of this development in Europe.
Other international collaborations
ZonMw is active in several international joint collaborations. For instance, we are members, together with research funders from other countries, of an international funders’ forum which allows funders to learn from each other’s experiences and compare working methods, e.g. the way we measure programme impact.
We also participate in HIROs (Heads of International Research Organisations) to discuss large, international health care themes; such as SARS and stem cell therapy; and at the behest of a variety of Ministries we take part in international consultative bodies with the aim of creating the best possible international research infrastructures. A good example of this type of consultative body is the Strategy Working Group on Health and Food of the European Strategy Forum of Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).