European Commission Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The EU Parliament voted its position on the Unitary SPC


by Giuliana Miglierini The intersecting pathways of revision of the pharmaceutical and intellectual property legislations recently marked the adoption of the EU Parliament’s position on the new unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) system, parallel to the recast of the current Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection


by Giuliana Miglierini As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have Read more

Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective


Piero Iamartino Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection

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by Giuliana Miglierini

As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have on the entire European pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. In the meantime, the Committee for Legal Affairs of the European Parliament approved the amendment to the Regulation proposed by the Commission to govern the issuing of Union compulsory licences for the manufacturing of medicinal products during crisis.

The initial proposal on regulatory data protection

To resume the main features of the EU Commission proposal on incentives referred to regulatory data protection (RDP), the current 8+2(+1) scheme would be remodulated to grant a standard 6-year period of regulatory data protection, valid for all newly approved medicines. This might be followed by extension periods of different length, depending on specific conditions (see here the impact report, Chap. VII).

The proposed additional criteria may support an RDP duration up to 12 years, as for example in the case of medicines for orphan diseases or unmet medical needs. But the more debated criteria proposed by the Commission is perhaps the request to the holders of marketing authorisations (MAH) to market newly approved medicinal products in all EU members states at the same time, within 2 years from the date of the MA. Should this occur, the MAH may benefit from a 2-year extension of the RDP.

New chemical substances undergoing clinical testing against a relevant and evidence-based comparator may also benefit of a 6-month extension of the RDP. Should the product be already in the market, the approval of a new indication coupled to the provision of a significant clinical benefit may extend regulatory data protection for 1 year. The same extension applies to products that changed their prescription status on the basis of significant non-clinical tests or clinical studies. Repurposed medicinal products may benefit from a 4-year extension of regulatory data protection in case of a new therapeutic indication not previously authorised in the EU.

The RDP is critical for the EU’s competitiveness

According to the Director General of EFPIA, Nathalie Moll, there are three key areas to be kept in mind while reaching the final decision: the positive net financial impact of regulatory data protection for both patients, the EU and member states, the R&D attractiveness at the EU and national level, and the fact the US has currently a more attractive RDP than the EU (see here more).

The regulatory data protection scheme proposed by the Commission might greatly reduce the number of new medicines available in Europe in the next 15 years, says EFPIA. The Commission’s estimate of €1.2 billion/year of additional costs for members states for every additional year of regulatory data protection would be wrong, it adds, as it is based on the List Prices of medicines. But many EU countries have clawback-type mechanisms to reduce this type of impact, which should be added to the indirect impact innovative medicines may exert in reducing other costs supported by healthcare systems. Thus, the final economic impact calculated by EFPIA would be €2 billion/year.

The attractiveness for R&D investments of a certain geographical area may prove also important, especially in the case of advanced therapies and complex types of therapeutics or to support research targeted to unmet medical needs.

As for the duration of regulatory data protection in the US, according to EFPIA this reaches 12 years (including market protection) for biologics and around 6-7 years of market protection for small molecules. ”RDP for non-biologics is the only element of IP where Europe leads on the US and is in the control of EU policy makers”, wrote Nathalie Moll.

On the other side of the game, Medicines for Europe on behalf of the generic and biosimilar industry also addressed a note to the rapporteur and shadow-rapporteur of the EU pharmaceutical legislation.

The key message is that there might have been a misunderstanding about the concrete impact of the extensions of regulatory data protection proposed by the EU Parliament, which received a strong political support, due to the complex interactions between the pharma legislation and the IP and SPC legislations.

The correct understanding of the dual track of pharmaceutical incentives (regulatory and patent/ SPCs) should be thus the key area of attention during the final set up of the new provisions. According to Medicines for Europe, some parliamentary amendment would extend the duration of regulatory data protection well beyond the duration of SPC, thus further extending the global protection (up to 13.5 or 18 years, depending on the specific proposal) and preventing the entry of generics and biosimilars in the European market.

The analysis run by the industrial association also calculated the potential impact on pharmaceutical budgets corresponding to the possible different lengths of regulatory data protection, and how the same budget might be used to potentiate the resources of healthcare system in terms of available nurses and doctors. The calculated range spans from €2.5-5.35 bln for the three countries considered (France, Germany, Spain) up to €19.5 bln to the entire EU in the case of 13.5 year extension, and it reaches, respectively, €13.2-24 bln and €99.5 bln in the case of the 18 years extension.

A strong critical voice in support of a true competition

The European Social Insurance Platform (ESIP) published a note at the end of February signed by its Director, Yannis Natsis. “Let us be clear that these protection periods are not companies’ rights, but privileges granted to the manufacturers by the European legislators, and they come at a significant cost for public budgets”, wrote Mr. Natsis.

The extension of regulatory data protection would thus result in a possible distortion of competition, and in a delay of patients’ access to treatments. Mr. Natsis also identified the “elephant in the room” of the European healthcare system, i.e. the extremely high prices of medicines in many therapeutic areas. An issue that ESIP’s Director considers a systemic problem.

The note supports the proposed 6-year standard regulatory data protection, with extensions that should not exceed the current situation. Incentives for orphan medicines should go in favour of truly rare diseases and unmet medical needs. ESIP also supports the availability of alternative incentive mechanisms to reward development of new antibiotics, instead of the Transferable exclusivity vouchers (TEVs) that should be replaced.

ESIP’s Director also wrote that “Put simply, we need to take these industry threats with a pinch of salt”, with reference to the pharmaceutical industry having repeatedly threatened to leave Europe since the beginning of the revision of the pharma legislation. “In any case, we cannot afford to end up with a reform which hands a free-for-all incentives “menu” to the companies. These are very expensive “carrots”. Such an outcome will be counter-productive for patients and self-defeating for healthcare systems across Europe”, commented Yannis Natsis.

From the perspective of statutory payers, a well-functioning generic competition allows to treat larger groups of patients at lower prices, while the pricing and business strategies of pharma companies often would limit the possibility to treat patients with most severe conditions. The request for the Parliament is thus to reach a well-balanced text. “There needs to be a renewed social contract between the pharmaceutical industries and the society at large”, wrote Yannis Natsis.

The JURI Committee amendments to the proposed Regulation on the Union compulsory licensing

In the meantime, the Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) of the EU Parliament approved on 13 February 2024 (17 votes in favour, 6 against) the report detailing the amendments to the proposed Regulation on the Union compulsory licensing during crisis and emergencies for the public health.

The Report also include the opinion given by the Committee on International Trade, and the list of entities or persons that provided input to the rapporteur (Adrián Vázquez Lázara) in the preparation of the report, among which are many industrial associations.

The Explanatory Note by the rapporteur highlights the need to maintain the equilibrium between innovation and rapid access to essential products. The JURI Committee has identified several aspects of the proposed Regulation that should be better clarified to ensure legal certainty, and which were addressed within the approved amendments.

The definition of “crisis” raised many concerns; the proposed amendments refer to a cross-border effect in the UE with involvement of two or more member states. Measures put in place should be proportionate, and not unnecessarily and disproportionally affecting the rights of citizens or the protection of intellectual property rights of businesses.

Union compulsory licenses might be issued only after the rights-holder has the time to negotiate a voluntary license with a potential licensee. To this instance, the Parliament has indicated 4 weeks as a suitable period for the Commission to wait for the results of ongoing negotiations. Furthermore, the Union compulsory licensing should remain a last resort instance and should have a duration strictly in line with that of the crisis, with a maximum of 12 months unless otherwise needed.

According to the JURI Committee, the definition of the know-how necessary for the manufacturing of certain products should be also clarified, as it is key to activate an expanded production capacity during crises. A new proposed recital indicates the Commission should have the authority to oblige rights-holders to provide all needed information, including know-how, especially for highly complex pharmaceuticals such as vaccines.

The Committee also highlighted the need for a better definition of the role of the advisory board. The proposed amendment indicates the inclusion as observers of other crisis relevant bodies at the UE level to ensure consistency with the measure, and of representatives of national authorities responsible for issuing compulsory licenses under the national patent laws.

Rights-holders should be able to provide their comments and other pertinent information to the advisory board prior to the final issuing of the Union compulsory licence. The procedure should start with the identification of the intellectual property rights concerned, and of potential licensees. The Commission should not grant any compulsory licences should the rights-holders not have been completely identified.

The JURI Committee also amended the text of the proposal to indicate the remuneration for the rights-holders should be determined, among others, considering the total gross revenue gene-rated by the licensee from the pertinent activities governed by the Union compulsory licence.

Remuneration should be also provided in cases where the rights-holder should disclose the trade secrets strictly necessary to achieve the purpose of the licence. A new amendment asks the Commission to assess the list of crisis modes or emergency modes reported in the Annex to the Regulation every two years from its entry into force, or without undue delay in case of exceptional threats to public safety or national security.


Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective

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Piero Iamartino

Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the 2000s that specific regulatory interventions have been designed to promote the identification of the different sources of pollution and the determination of possible actions to be taken.

The obligation to submit the result of an environmental risk assessment of a medicinal product at the same time as the application for marketing authorisation was introduced only after the publication of the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) guideline issued by EMA in 2006, which sets out the guidelines and describes a series of standard tests to be performed. However, this first piece of legislation immediately highlighted limitations as it was applied only to the marketing of medicines from that moment on, without considering the contribution of medicines with the same active ingredient and neglecting the evaluation of those already authorised and on the market.

Over the following years, the problem of the environmental impact of medicines was tackled more extensively with the launch of several projects promoted by the European Commission in partnership with the EFPIA (IMI: Chem21, iPiE and Premier) which have deepened the characterisation of environmental risks, with the identification of priority criteria to be assigned to interventions and the development of models and tools to measure the sustainability of the processes of manufacture, in particular of active substances.

These important projects in recent years have been added to the initiatives undertaken at the European level with the publication in 2020 of the new European pharmaceutical strategy which defines some specific objectives for the mitigation of the environmental impact of medicines that will be reflected in the upcoming revision of European pharmaceutical legislation and which are part of the broader regulatory acts for the ecological transition envisaged by the Green Deal European.

In light of the above, a gradual transformation of some processes and operating methods carried out by the European pharmaceutical industry is envisaged, starting from the development of a new medicinal product to its distribution and, similarly, adequate regulatory interventions will have to be envisaged on the management of the correct use and disposal of medicinal products since the environmental impact of this last phase of the life cycle of a medicinal product is predominant.

Although these changes involve all professionals working in the pharmaceutical industry, a key role is played by the industrial pharmacist who, due to his professional profile dictated by his university curriculum, has the fundamental knowledge bases to occupy different positions in the industry, covering the entire path of medicine from its conception and manufacture as an active ingredient, its development as a medicinal product and its distribution on the market.

With this in mind, EIPG has started the preparation of a document that analyses the main critical areas of the entire production process of a medicinal product and sets out its position on the interventions considered a priority in a perspective of changes that will lead to the inclusion of new methods alternative material resources and will require new skills.

The first critical area examined is the manufacture of the active ingredient, both for its impact as such on the environment and for the process applied to its manufacture. The problem is particularly relevant for small molecules, while it is substantially insignificant for large molecules and even less so for products based on the use of cellular tissues or biological structures (ATMPs). The fundamental parameters to be considered are the environmental toxicity and the bio-degradability of the product. The problem is how to reconcile these two parameters with the chemical-physical and biopharmaceutical characteristics that an active ingredient must possess to be administered, absorbed and then carry out the desired pharmacological activity. The effort required in the design and screening phase of a new small molecule is the identification of a structural parameter that makes it more eco-friendly without compromising its purpose. Although this criticality does not arise in the case of large molecules and ATMPs, for these active ingredients the environmental impact due to higher energy consumption attributable to the need for low-temperature storage conditions may prevail.

About the production process of small molecules, which today still represent the largest percentage of active ingredients in development and on the market, it is essential to definitively introduce the application of the principles of Green Chemistry, as highlighted by the most recent studies (IMI Premier Project). The prospect is that of a progressive change in the synthesis processes with the use of reagents and less toxic solvents that are entirely recyclable and reusable, as well as the development of a synthesis route that allows the least number of operations, generating the least amount of waste and maintaining the best possible efficiency. It is desirable to increase biocatalysis processes as well as the introduction of more incisive treatments in the management of industrial wastewater to accentuate chemical degradation before their transfer to eternity.

A second large critical area where important changes are expected is the manufacturing processes of the medicine from the active substance to its availability for distribution on the market. Also in this area, interventions can be identified to optimize the use of the resources used, with particular reference to energy consumption and the use of water. These two parameters are already the subject of numerous studies for the development of new energy containment processes with the introduction of innovative plant solutions, and further improvements are expected considering the benefits that derive from them in terms of efficiency and therefore costs.

Among the parameters closely linked to the medicinal product that shows a significant environmental impact, attention must be paid to the packaging materials used in the pharmaceutical industry. A priority intervention must focus on certain widely used plastic materials that are difficult to dispose of and not recyclable, identifying alternative materials with the consequent need to study their compatibility with the medicinal product, especially if used in direct contact, and their impact on the stability profile of the same, as required by the reference standards. Other objectives should be the choice of secondary packaging materials that can be easily recycled by the end user, as well as the reduction of their volume, also favoured by the digitization of the information materials related to them. The implementation of these interventions will require adjustments both to the packaging lines used in the pharmaceutical industry and to the alternative ways of managing products in the transport and distribution phase, with a marked increase in studies for the reuse of packaging materials in line with the principles of the circular economy.

The prospects of the expected changes in the path from the active substance to the medicine will have to be accompanied by an assessment of the possibilities of intervening in the supply chain used by the pharmaceutical industry involving suppliers of active ingredients, materials and medicines. The regulatory guidelines and commitments on actions to improve environmental sustainability will require a progressive review in the management and evaluation of suppliers according to their ability to apply the ecosustainability criteria of their processes, giving preference to those who take this path.

The above analysis, limited to the areas of greatest environmental criticality, highlights the transformations that are expected in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years with the implementation of the provisions that will be progressively adopted at the European level. We think there should be good coordination between the impositions for environmental sustainability and the need to adhere to pharmaceutical regulatory requirements to facilitate the implementation of changes. This coordination is essential as innovation will be the guiding criterion for the introduction of the required changes to meet the sustainability objectives.


Lessons learnt to transition from Horizon 2020 to the new FP10

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Commission published the ex post evaluation of Horizon 2020 (H2020), the FP8 framework programme for research and innovation (R&I) run in years 2014-2020.

The report identifies several areas of possible improvement, which may be taken into account in the definition of the new FP10 (2028-2034) that will follow the current programme Horizon Europe (FP9). Among these are a broader participation, further simplification and reduction of the administrative burden, reinforcement of the dissemination, exploitation and deployment of results, support for the participation of women and enhancement of synergies with other initiatives at EU, national and regional level.

With a overall budget of € 75.6 billion, the main goal of H2020 was to support EU’s economic growth and excellence in science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. We summarise the main features of the report.

Key numbers of Horizon 2020
Calls under H2020 collected more than a million individual applications from 177 countries. Funded projects were more than 35,000, involving more than 40,000 organisations. The true impact of the programme cannot yet be fully appreciated, as 41% of projects were still active at the time of the final evaluation and are expected to yield further results.

Many new technologies in various domains of science were developed thanks to H2020 funding, i.e. mRNA vaccines, photonics and micro- and nanoelectronics, and novel hydrogen-fuelled transports. Sustainable development benefited from investments equal to 64.4% of H2020’s budget.

Activities run under FP8 led to almost 4,000 applications for protection of intellectual property (¾ patents and 12% trademarks). Peer-reviewed publications were over 276,000. Horizon 2020 had a significant effect in boosting employment (+20%) and increasing the turnover and total assets for participating companies (+30%). The mobility of approx. 50,000 researchers across countries and sectors was also supported. The programme allowed to improve the access to newly created or upgraded research infrastructures for more than 24,000 researchers and organisations.

According to the final report, some additional € 159 billion would have been needed to fund all the high-quality proposals submitted. Despite this, the long term impact of the programme is estimated to contribute an average annual increase of €15.9 billion to EU GDP (€429 billion for the period 2014-2040), and a net gain in employment levels of around 220,000 employees at its peak.

Co-investment led to a wide development of public-private partnerships and joint undertakings, with private partners contributing resources (in cash or in kind) two-three times the volume of EU funding. The development of the venture capital ecosystems and networks was also improved.

Key scientific and societal achievements
Medical sciences, quantum mechanics, chemical engineering and composite materials were among the main scientific domains targeted by actions run under Horizon 2020, together with climate change, health and food security and other societal challenges.

The relevance of scientific publications is acknowledged by the citation frequency, that according to the report is twice the global average. A significant number of papers (4%) are among the most cited worldwide, while more than 25% covered emerging and rapidly evolving R&I sectors. The great majority of publications (82%) were published as open access papers, thus greatly supporting the circulation of knowledge.

Emerging health crises were among the main research priorities related to improvement of public health, together with rare diseases and personalised medicine. Ebola and Zika epidemics were the first targeted emergencies, but the real test case was the Covid-19 pandemic: the final report indicates H2020 and the previous FP7 are recognised as the third most frequently acknowledged funding sources for Covid-19 related research in the world.

As for climate change, this field of research received 32% of H2020 funding to support, among others, the development of alternative and low-emission fuels. Other relevant lines of R&I included the development of a smart European electricity grid, automation, energy storage integration and the adoption of renewable energy sources.

As for the ongoing digital transformation, H2020 supported for example the development of safe and user-friendly robotics. Over 20% of the overall budget was dedicated to research in social sciences and humanities disciplines.

Elements to be improved
Horizon 2020 allowed to greatly expand the European network of research infrastructures. According to the final evaluation, access to these facilities may be further improved by enabling greater synergies between EU, national and regional programmes for research infrastructure. Despite H2020 saw improvements in the presence of women in evaluation panels (42%), the fixed target of 50% share of women in scientific advisory panels and as researchers in projects was not yet achieved (43% and 23% respectively).

As for financial aspects, the interim evaluation identified a notable gap in venture and growth capital in the EU to scale up innovations. The issue was addressed through the launch, in the last three years of H2020, of a pilot to run the European Innovation Council (EIC), which according to the report showed positive preliminary results both on the turnover and staffing levels of its beneficiaries, and in tackling the critical funding gap in high-risk areas where limited alternatives are available at national and regional levels.

Preparing for the next FP10
With Horizon Europe framework programme coming to an end in 2027, the final report on results achieved by H2020 represents a first basis to reason on new research targets and financial support to be part of the new FP10 2028-2034 (you can find comments here and here).

While some members of the European Parliament already called for a FP10 budget of at least € 200 billion (see here more), several academic and scientific organisations published their proposals to be considered in the drafting of the new programme.

The European University Association (EUA), Science Europe and the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) sent a joint open letter to EU Commissioner Iliana Ivanova, asking for a doubling of the FP10 budget to €200 billion. A higher budget stability and protection of funding from being shifted to non-R&I purposes are among other requests, together with rebalancing support across various stages of R&I (i.e. bottom-up basic research, applied research, development, and innovation). Sufficient national investments in R&I are also deemed important.

The European universities of science and technology represented by Cesaer also published a note to advance their suggestions, in line with the EU Commission’s goals of a more elaborate EU industrial policy, and the move towards EU-30+. Key elements should include the leadership in deep tech, clean-tech and biotech based on the full knowledge value chain, the use of open and competitive calls to select researchers and innovators and award funding across all parts of FP10, a stable financial environment with at least €200 billion investments and enacting the 3% GDP target to R&I agreed by the EU Council in 2002. An annual review mechanism of current performance and a ring-fence to protect the budget allocated to R&I are among the suggested actions.

Guiding principles proposed by EU-LIFE (the Alliance of research institutes advocating for excellent research in Europe) also address investments in the European Research Council, the bridging role of the European Innovation Council, the need to avoid additional pillars and fragmentation, and the development of a coherent impact approach by reducing the size of consortia and monitoring the impact of initiatives in Pillar 2.


European Council’s recommendations on R&I

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The end of 2023 saw some steps forward to better support the European framework on Research and Innovation (R&I). The Council of Europe approved on 8 December 2023 its conclusions on the impact of research and innovation (R&I) in policymaking. The Council also reached a political agreement on a recommendation of a framework supporting researchers and research careers in the EU. R&I is strategically important as one of the main tools to make Europe more attractive to young talents and to create a open and sustainable European labour market for researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs. We summarise the main features of the Council’s decisions.

How to support the European R&I

The Council conclusions were proposed by the Spanish Presidency (Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities), and they represent one of its main priorities in the area of research and innovation.

Three mutually complementary dimensions have been identified as fundamental to the success of European R&I. Science plays an important role to reinforce the political process of decision making, which in turn is key to improve life conditions of EU citizens and strengthen democracy. To this instance, the inclusion of scientific evidence and knowledge in the regulatory process and a better coherence of policy initiatives in different areas are deemed important by the Council. According to the conclusions, such an inclusion should help to improve the response capacity of the EU and member states against both structural and cyclical or circumstantial challenges. The document also recalls the ‘Science for Policy’ concept and the EU’s long-standing tradition of relying on science and evidence-based knowledge in all disciplines to support decision-making.

The availability of strong R&I ecosystems in all member states is deemed fundamental to sustain EU’s competitiveness and should be supported among others by the implementation of open-science policies and new technologies and innovation, including social innovation.

The best available scientific evidence should also always be included in impact assessments, so to improve citizens’ trust in public action, as well as the added value of the legislation. To this instance, a rigorous methodological framework would be needed, even though uncertainties are still possible. Transparent and responsible communication would support a better dissemination of scientific outcomes at all levels. The Council also recommended the mapping of the existing practices of knowledge valorisation in policymaking and the national institutional scientific advisory systems and mechanisms. The Commission should also extend the use of the Technical Support Instrument and the Policy Support Facility to support public policymakers and strengthen public structures for scientific advice.

Local and regional innovation ecosystems and ERA’s R&I

R&I may also represent a boost to enhance cooperation and territorial cohesion, reduce R&I fragmentation and disparities between and within member states and to sustain the creation of regional and local innovation ecosystems. Their design should aim to build synergies between cohesion policy and R&I funds. To this regard, according to the Council the R&I framework programme (i.e. Horizon Europe) should continue to drive research excellence in all member states.

Regional centres of excellence may represent a particularly interesting tool to support the regional dimension, with a special attention to the less innovative ecosystems. This goal is part of the New European Innovation Agenda (NEIA), as well as the Regional Innovation Valleys and the pilot project of the Partnerships for Regional Innovation. Cross-border cooperation (especially between less and more innovative member states and regions) may also be key to support better economic, social, and territorial cohesion and reinforce R&I efficiency.

The third dimension is referred to the policy impact of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) on the design of R&I policies in the European Research Area (ERA) after the pandemic crisis. This last occurrence had a positive effect in enabling many actions at the national level, allowing for targeted investments and reforms. The new ERA should be based on trust, shared responsibilities, and societal engagement and diversity.

Many sectoral and R&I policies experienced a joint approach to their improvement, including the additionality of the Facility with other EU funds. The Council invited the Commission to run a separate study that complements the mid-term evaluation of the RRF, expected by February 2024. The exercise should consider the differences between the RRF and other EU funds.

The reform of research careers

The political agreement reached by the Council on the proposal of a European framework to attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talents in Europe updates the R1- R4 profiles for researchers, introduced in 2011. It also introduces the European Charter for Re-searchers (ECR), a revision of the 2005 ECR and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

The revised definition of researcher and the related research activities are expected to widen career options, thus making European R&I framework more attractive for both internal and foreign talents.

According to the proposal, the term “researcher” would identify professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, active in basic or applied research, experimental development, operating research equipment, or project management within any sector of the economy or society (i.e.academia, business, governmental laboratories and the public administration, and the non-profit sector). Careers in research management are also included in the definition.

Four different profiles have been identified to describe the career steps of researchers. First Stage Researcher (R1) are doing research under supervision up to the point of a PhD or equivalent level of competence and experience. Recognised Researcher (R2) hold a PhD or equivalent level of competence and experience but are not yet fully independent in their ability to develop their own research, attract funding, or lead a research group. R1 and R2 refer to researchers at the beginning of their career in science. R3 and R4 refer to senior researchers. Established Re-searcher (R3) holds a PhD or equivalent level of competence and possesses sufficient experience to independently develop and run their own research. Leading Researcher (R4) are recognised as leading their research field by their peers.

The Council recommends that these profiles are referenced to by members states in all vacancies specifically addressed to researchers. Member states are also called to promote equal esteem and reward of the different paths of research careers, regardless of the sector of employment or activity. Appropriate measuring should support comparison of careers across member states, sectors, and institutions, so enabling their full interoperability. The Council recommendation also aims to reduce the precarity of research labour by promoting adequate social protection measures. Inter-sectoral mobility is also encouraged, as well as better equality in research careers, as a tool to respond to the request of highly skilled talents. The Council expects that all organisations employing or providing funding for researchers would provide endorsement of the new “European Charter for Researchers”.


The first Union list of critical medicines

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The first version of the Union list of critical medicines was published on 12 December 2023 by the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of medicines Agencies (HMA).

The initiative is part of the actions planned according to the Pharmaceutical Strategy and the Communication on addressing medicine shortages in the EU. A Q&As documentwas also published to illustrate the main features of the list, together with the methodology to identify critical medicinesto be included in the list (see the dedicated webpage of EMA’s website). The first version of the Union list of critical medicines is comprehensive of approx. 200 active substances, selected starting from a pool of more than 600 referred to in the national lists of critical medicines of Finland, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. These six countries were chosen as their lists were based on criteria aligned with those agreed for the Union list. The process also comprised consultations of key stakeholders, including patients and healthcare professionals’ organisations and industry associations.

The list will be updated annually, and further references will be added in 2024. The final list will also include the separate assessment of the vulnerability of the supply chains to be run by the European Commission.

The Union list will not replace existing national lists of critical medicines, that will continue to support national policy decisions. EU member states may also use the Union list to create their own national lists, if not yet available.

Ensuring an uninterrupted supply of critical medicines is essential for a strong European Health Union. With the publication of the first Union list of critical medicines today, we are delivering on our promise to accelerate work in this area and to take every possible measure to avert the risk of shortages for our citizens”, said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

A list to prevent shortages

The Union list of critical medicines represents a warning about the importance of avoiding shortages for specific medicines, as they would highly impact both patients and healthcare systems. No immediate effect is expected on shortages, but the risk might decrease in the longer term.

The Union list specifies human medicines (both innovators and generics, vaccines, and medicines for rare diseases) those continued supply is considered a priority in the EU. It will be used by the EU Commission, EMA and HMA for the definition of proactive measures to strengthen the supply chain and minimise the risk of supply disruptions (see more on EMA’s webpage on Availability of critical medicines).

The Union list of critical medicines will also serve as the basis for the Commission to run the analysis of vulnerabilities, followed by recommendation of suitable measures in consultation with the Critical Medicines Alliance (we wrote about this part 1 and part 2). The Commission may issue recommendations for companies to diversify suppliers or increase production within the EU. Incentives to invest may also be used to favour the resilience of European manufacturing. As for procurement, strong contractual obligations for delivery may apply.

Medicines included in the Union list will also be prioritised for actions by the European medicines regulatory network, in charge of monitoring their availability and implementing measures to minimise the risk of supply disruptions. To this instance, existing processes and structures will be used as defined in the mandate of EMA’s Medicine Shortages Single Point of Contact (SPOC) Working Party and EMA’s Executive Steering Group on Shortages and Safety of Medicinal Products (MSSG).

No additional obligations have been introduced by now for marketing authorisation holders and national competent authorities. This will be a topic of discussions during the final phase of negotiations on the proposed revision of the EU pharmaceutical legislation.

The methodology to select critical medicines

The therapeutic indication and the availability of alternative medicines are the two main criteria for the insertion of a certain medicinal product in the Union list of critical medicines. Additionally, it has to be classified as critical in at least one-third (33%) of EU/EEA (European Eco-nomic Area) member states.

National lists of critical medicines may differ from one another, reflecting differences of the internal evaluation criteria used to assess criticality. For example, some products are marketed just in some countries, or alternatives are available in some countries and not in others. Furthermore, the Union list is still incomplete, as some important medicines have not yet been assessed at the central level. The Union list does not include as well products mentioned in the WHO list of essential medicines. Orphan medicines are included in the Union list if they meet the above-mentioned assessment criteria.

The document on methodology further clarifies the governance of the process and the matrix for identifying medicines to be included in the Union list of critical medicines. The methodology was created starting in 2021 (European Commission Structured Dialogue initiative), finalised by the HMA/EMA Task Force on the availability of authorised medicines for human and veterinary use (HMA/EMA TF-AAM), and finally adopted in June 2023.

The medicinal product criticality is evaluated on the basis of a risk assessment. As for therapeutic indications (criterion 1), all authorised medicines in a member state should be classified, irrespective of their marketing status. Criterion 2 refers to the availability of alternatives, and only authorised medicines marketed in the respective member state should be classified.

A low, medium or high-risk level is assigned for each of the two above-mentioned criteria, thus resulting in a risk matrix. The exercise allows to assign the medicine in one of the following categories: critical medicines, medicines at risk, other medicines.

Medicines considered at high risk with respect to their therapeutic indication refers to products those use may have very serious implications for the health of individual patients or public health (general life-threatening acute conditions, specific life-threatening acute conditions, or irreversibly progressive conditions). Evaluation parameters include the fact the disease is potentially fatal, irreversibly progressive or, if left untreated, will pose an immediate threat to the patients. Furthermore, the treatment must be administered immediately or within regular dosing intervals, and the product has to be part of a national disease control program.

Appropriate alternatives are identified according to the fact they are authorised for the same therapeutic indication and are available on the market in the respective member state. Furthermore, alternative treatment has to be clinically possible, without negative impact on the patient’s health and providing the same quality of care standard. As for criterion 2, high risk cri-tical medicines refer to products for which no appropriate alternative is available, or only one appropriate alternative (product) on ATC level 4 or 5 (same active substance or alternative is within the same ATC level 4 group or in another ATC level 4 group) is available.

Public consultation for the review of HERA

We inform all interested EIPG’s members that the public consultation for the review of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) is open until 19 February 2024 and it can be accessed through the dedicated webpage of the EU Commission website.

The consultations aim to assess how HERA’s mandate and tools contributed to achieve EU’s political objectives, and how the Authority complements the work of other EU bodies and responds to the current health challenges.


The drug shortage situation – EIPG’s point of view

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by Maurizio Battistini

The shortage of medicines has been a major concern in the countries of the European Union, and elsewhere, for more than 10 years, so much so that the Economic Community has devoted a great deal of effort and increasing attention to this problem in an attempt to mitigate its impact on patient health.

Several factors can be identified as being at the root of the shortage of medicines, some of which intersect with each other, mainly concerning aspects with technical, qualitative, regulatory, forecasting, supply, speculative and economic implications.

EIPG has made its contribution to the various attempts to contain the phenomenon by participating in task forces, round tables and convenings dedicated to identifying the root causes of the issue and, through gap analysis, the consequent mitigation measures. Overall, strengthening the risk-assessment approach to assess and define the risk level of individual deficiencies or the causes to which they pertain in order to rationalize and focus mitigation interventions and identify their level of acceptance with a proactive approach.

Before defining the particularly deserving aspects to be emphasised and consequently acted upon, it is important to mention those that represent, in the opinion of EIPG, but are not limited to, the elements on which priority action should be taken. In analysing the problem, one cannot in fact fail to take proper account of the fact that medicines are not such without their active ingredients and that, for diseases with the widest spread, there are equivalent medicines and alternative therapies. On the basis of the latter assumption, it is understandable that the definition of a shortage of medicines should be restricted to cases where no equivalent medicines or alternative therapies with different medicines are available, so as to concentrate efforts to solve the problem only on those conditions that are worthy of attention because they are not limited to the unavailability of a specific product or to situations for which it is possible to identify an alternative treatment (defining a list of critical medicines and defining risk assessment criteria for assessing whether a product should be on the list or not).

The operation required to bring the production of active ingredients back to Europe, recognising their strategic and central role in the composition of medicines for the entire community and patients, takes longer. The relocation of the manufacturing of active ingredients to third countries, which has been taking place for several years now for mainly economic reasons, has led to the dependence of many other countries, including mainly those of the Union, on supplies that today has the occasional impact that we know of, but which could become much more serious if not systemic. We have been hearing about reshoring the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients for some time now, but so far there do not seem to be any concrete initiatives for its implementation.

As mentioned above, EIPG identified the revision of the definition of drug shortages and the reallocation of strategic production of active pharmaceutical ingredients in Europe as a main key action to mitigate the impact of drug shortages.

Although it is not an aspect of primary interest to the European industrial pharmacist community, EIPG recognises the economic aspects as playing an important role in the origin of shortages, particularly with regard to the low price paid for certain categories of medicines, which induces manufacturers to abandon the manufacture of low-profit products, and the discrepancies in the price of medicines that exist in the different countries of the Union, discrepancies that, coincidentally, make the countries where prices are the lowest or even where volumes are not so attractive as to devote production to shortages.

Having made this necessary digression on the aspects requiring corrective action at source, there are, however, other, mostly ‘occasional’ causes on which to intervene, where possible, in a proactive manner or by means of reaction instruments capable of reducing the impact of shortages. In this regard, some of the elements covered in the introductory part of this discussion, namely: technical-qualitative, regulatory, forecasting and speculative, are taken up and detailed.

As far as the technical quality aspects are concerned, given the vastness of such occasional events in the production cycle of a medicine, a separate, dedicated discussion should be devoted to them. In addition to a few examples, please refer to the chapter ‘Shortages Originating from Manufacturing‘ in the text ‘Pharmaceutical Supply Chains – Medicines Shortages‘ published by Springer and written by the same author as this article. The book, authored by experts in the field, provides an insight of relevant case studies and updated practices in Pharmaceutical Supply Chains (PharmSC) while addressing the most relevant topics within the COST Action Medicines Shortages (CA15105) and it covers uncertainty and risk aspects of supply chain management, carefully combining the scientific level with a pedagogical approach. In industry, proactive strategies such as the adoption of reserve stocks or back-up establishments can be adopted to make up for medicine shortages on an emergency basis, although the expense of sustaining these prudential approaches remains the main problem.

In a number of situations, shortages can occur due to underestimated sales forecasts or problems with the supply of raw materials, and in particular APIs.

A particular case in point is parallel trade, which by its very nature can have such contrasting effects that it has been dubbed ‘The double face of the parallel trade’. While on the one hand, this method is useful in dealing with shortages in a relatively short time (import in the country where the shortage needs to be filled and export from the country where the availability exists), on the other hand, it has often encouraged the migration of products from countries where they are cheap to others where they guarantee a higher margin, in which case it could be the source of the problem and not its solution.

Last but not least, it should be pointed out that the phenomenon of shortages has an economic implication, as it is more likely to affect drugs with low profitability or movements of drugs from countries with low margins or sales volumes to those with high margins or higher market shares.

Heads of Medicines Agencies and the European Medicines Agency on improving availability of human and veterinary medicines invited the EIPG to attend the key stakeholders’ table at the Workshop on Shortages Prevention Plan held on 1 and 2 March 2023. The EIPG was represented by Jane Nicholson and Maurizio Battistini. Staff from the EMA, the European Commission and members of national authorities presented their current initiatives and future plans. Representatives from the research and generics industry, wholesalers, pharmacists from the EIPG and PGEU, and several organizations representing patient groups had the opportunity to present and discuss ideas for shortage prevention, permanent market withdrawals, and shortage communication and transparency.

The meeting had breakthrough sessions on biosimilars (the EMA is publicly encouraging their use) immunoglobulins and veterinary medicines. The EIPG commented on the low prices of medicines that cause shortages and called for more accurate definitions of ‘medicine shortages’ and to focus efforts on essential product shortages where there is no equivalent medicine or alternative therapy to ensure patient access to adequate treatment.

Shown below is the action plan that EIPG submitted to the group at the meeting; an action plan that largely reflects what is the topic of this article.

  • Establish pro-active risk management plan
  • Prepare list of medicinal products of clinical importance that lack therapeutic alternatives • Undertake regular checks on market availability of alternative products especially those with low pricing due to cap measures
  • Criticality in the procurement of all starting materials with particular attention to APIs
    • How to mitigate?
  • Quality and manufacturing aspects that could have an impact on medicines’ shortages
    • How to manage them preventively?
  • Appropriate agreements on quality and capacity of CMOs
  • Need to review quality management systems throughout life cycle (including those for older products)
  • Consideration of batch release and transportation impact on the time to deliver products to the market
  • Review impact on production planning of potential weaknesses in sales forecasting

Everyone in industry agrees that problems of shortages are complex with no quick solutions, and it was interesting to hear staff from Agencies agree that one of the main problems of shortages for older products is the impact of low pricing of products by national healthcare systems. Also, product dumping of medicines at an extremely low price was mentioned as occurring in some countries and everyone present agreed this must not be tolerated. There were 100 participants in the main meeting room at the EMA and 200 who were connected online.

In opening the meeting, Emer Cooke Executive (Director EMA) explained the aim was to inform stakeholders about the HMA/EMA Task Force activities and deliverables and share stakeholders’ perspectives on ongoing and planned initiatives to address availability issues. She explained the long-term position of the EMA is to focus on prevention and to become more proactive, particularly since the EMA after Covid was given an extended mandate for emergency situations. The EU joint action for shortages has been launched to improve capacity at national level and the single point of contact (SPOC) working party is really helping to ensure suitable structures are in place to assist with shortages. The EMA is working with the European Commission, DG SANTE (medicinal products unit, quality, safety and innovation) and DG HERA (intelligence gathering, analysis and innovation unit) both of whom made presentations during the meeting.

In October 2023, released documents about Commission steps up actions to address critical shortages of medicines and strengthen security of supply in the EU.

The work done by the European community is aimed at addressing the shortages of the most critical medicines by emphasising the role of logistical aspects but overlooking certain critical elements that go beyond supply chain management and concern the upstream management of the concrete problems for which medicine shortages continue to occur (root causes). For the time being, the Commission seems to be oriented towards a predominantly top-down approach, even if there are spaces where opportunities for a multidisciplinary discussion involving all stakeholders in the supply chain are offered. However, it remains important to note that the Community is taking an active interest in the problem albeit adopting containment measures aimed at containing the problem rather than solving it at its root.

Given the role entrusted to Italy to find solutions to this important problem, the author is convinced that the face-to-face meeting that EIPG will have in Rome with the Italian Medicines’ Agency, on the occasion of the EIPG’s Annual General Assembly, will serve as a constructive basis for working together to find longer-term solutions to medicines’ shortages main causes.

Reference: Battistini, M. (2019). Shortages of Medicines Originating from Manufacturing. In: Barbosa-Povoa, A., Jenzer, H., de Miranda, J. (eds) Pharmaceutical Supply Chains – Medicines Shortages. Lecture Notes in Logistics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15398-4_5


EP’s draft position on Unitary SPC and SPC Regulation revision

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament released the draft amendments to the Commission’s proposals aimed to establish a Unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) (links to the document and to the procedure) and to revise the current SPC Regulation (links to the document and the procedure).

On the dedicated pages of EP’s website, you can also find the opinion issued by the Consultative Working Party, according to the Inter-institutional agreement of 28 November 2001 on a more structured use of the recasting technique for legal acts.

A document analysing the potential impact of the Unitary SPC on access to health technologies was also prepared by the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs Directorate-General for Internal Policies in September 2023.

We summarise the main features of the EP’s draft positions, which were discussed in the 7 November meeting of the JURI Committee.

The revision of the current SPC Regulation

The JURI Committee (Rapporteur Tiemo Wölken) moved to Recital 2 the statement that “medicinal products, in particular those that are the result of long, costly research will not continue to be developed in the Union unless they are covered by favourable rules that provide for sufficient protection to encourage such research”. Recitals 3 and 5 of the original proposal have been deleted, the last one referring to the risk research centres located within the EU might move to countries offering greater protection. The new Recital 2 makes now reference to the difficulty of establishing a direct link between favourable protection rules and EU competitiveness. If, on the one hand, it would be true that the attractiveness of EU markets might benefit from favourable protection, on the other it should be taken into account that European incentives can be granted also to authorised medicines from third countries. Furthermore, UE-based innovative companies can equally benefit from incentives in third countries.

Recital 13, referring to the request of a marketing authorisation for a biological medicinal pro-duct identified by its International Nonproprietary Name (INN), has been amended to indicate that the protection conferred by the SPC should extend to all biosimilars (and not to therapeutically equivalent products, as previously indicated).

A reference to Article [86] of the new Directive (EU) …/… [2023/0132(COD)] to be approved has been introduced in Recital 24, concerning fees that can be charged by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) with reference to centralised application for SPCs for paediatric medicinal products.

The newly inserted Recital 41 a highlights the importance of the timely entry of generics and biosimilars in the EU market, as it may support competition, reduction of prices, sustainability of national healthcare systems and access to affordable medicines.

Several amendments have been proposed for Recital 45. Among the main ones is the reference to the opportunity “to restrict the protection conferred by a supplementary protection certificate in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2019/933 so as to allow making for the exclusive purpose of export to third countries and any related acts in the Union strictly necessary for making or for the actual export itself […]”. The JURI Committee referred to “related acts” as those that “could include the possession, supply, offering to supply, import, using or synthesis of an active ingredient for the purpose of making a medicinal product containing that product, or temporary storage of the product or advertising for the exclusive purpose of export to third-country destinations”.

A phrase was added to Recital 60 on the centralised SPC register to deny the possibility to use the hereby contained information to support patent linkage, regulatory or administrative decisions related to generic or biosimilars, pricing and reimbursement decisions or tender bids. Article 35 – paragraph 11 a further emphasises this concept with reference to public authorities, that should not use such information for refusal, suspension, delay, withdrawal or revocation of marketing authorisations.

The JURI Committee also modified the definition of medicinal product contained in Article 2 – paragraph 1 – point 1 of the proposed Regulation, making reference to “‘any substance or com-bination of substances that fulfils at least one of the following conditions”. These include properties for treating or preventing disease in humans, the possibility to restore, correct or modify physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action, or to making a medical diagnosis.

The new Article 2 – paragraph 1 – point 12 a defines the meaning of the wording ‘economically linked’ with reference to “different holders of two or more basic patents protecting the same product, that one holder, directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls, is controlled by or is under common control with another holder”.

The JURI Committee also introduced the new Article 8 – paragraph 1 – point d b, stating the need to provide information on any direct public financial support received for research related to the development of the product.

The new Article 26 – paragraph 4 – point c a mentions the inclusion of any evidence in the notice of opposition in support of the opposition itself. According to the amended Article 26 – paragraph 6, the opposition panel should communicate its decision together with the reasoning for it. The same applies to the EUIPO (Article 26 – paragraph 9). The Office should also issue a single decision with reference to several oppositions filed against an examination opinion (Article 26 – paragraph 9 a). Undue delays are repeatedly discouraged.

Article 28 – paragraph 3 – point a was amended to indicate that examiners of patents and SPCs should possess relevant expertise and sufficient experience in the assigned tasks. Article 45 – paragraph 3 adds experts shall be verified for the absence of any conflict of interest.

Amendments of the Unitary SPC proposal

Many of the amendments made by the JURI Committee to the Unitary SPC proposal correspond to the ones seen above for the SPC recast. Among the distinctive ones is the new Recital 14 a, focusing on the “digital by default” principle and consequent electronic applications for unitary and combined applications for supplementary protection certificates. Article 8 – paragraph 4 a adds that the electronic application for a unitary SPC should use the formats made available by EUIPO. Other articles regulate the entire procedure to occur by exchange of electronic documentation.

Amended Recital 22 now makes explicit reference to the possibility to produce and store in the EU “in view of entering the market of any Member State upon expiry of the corresponding certificate (‘EU Day-one entry’) and any acts related thereto”.

The new Article 22 – paragraph 1 – point c b defines cases where the applicant shall waive the SPC rights for markets where the medicinal product has not been launched, i.e., the medicinal product is not placed on all Member States or a Member State market covered by the unitary certificate or combined centralised SPCs.

Comments from Medicines for Europe

The first drafts of the EP position on the SPC and SPC Regulation recast are a step in the right direction for access to medicines across Europe, according to Medicines for Europe. The association particularly appreciated the identification of the necessary safeguards for scrutiny of the SPC application before granting, to prevent invalid (non-innovative) SPCs from delaying access to generic and biosimilar medicines. The undue use of SPC expiry dates in the register to implement unlawful and anti-competitive patent linkage strategies were also deemed positive.


Webinar: Building a healthier and more environmentally sustainable future

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EIPG webinar

Next EIPG webinar is to be held on Thursday 26th of October 2023 at 17.00 CEST (16.00 BST) in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork. Kirsty Reid, Director for Science Policy at EFPIA, will discuss the various proactive initiatives and reactive activities undertaken by industry forming the basis behind building a healthier and more environmentally sustainable future within the healthcare sector. Kirsty holds a PhD in biology and for the past 18 years she has worked closely on research, EU public and regulatory affairs covering alternatives to animal testing, environment, health, safety and sustainability issues.

The European Green Deal, launched by the Commission in December 2019, is a package of policy initiatives, which aims to set the EU on the path to a green transition, with the ultimate goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. The pharmaceutical sector operations, the supply chain, pharmacies and patients will be impacted by the European Commission’s Green Deal initiative which focuses on climate, zero pollution, chemicals, and circular economy. Furthermore, there are ongoing decisions taking place to restrict certain substances or technologies which can potentially disrupt continuity of supply for specific products or platforms. The pharmaceutical package published on the 26 April, specifically calls out these legislations linking them to the environmental risk assessment of medicinal products.

At the end of this webinar attendees will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the April 2023 Pharmaceutical Package in relation to the European Commission’s Green Deal.
  2. Discuss the multiple ongoing actions to reduce emissions.
  3. Assist in the development of initiatives for your company’s Environmental Risk Assessments of medicinal products.

Please register by filling out the Registration Form. Keep a record of the streaming details of the event that will be shown on your screen at the time of your registration.


EU’s Industrial Forum, the future of advanced manufacturing technologies

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The expert group “Industrial Forum” is a multistakeholder body created by the European Commission to support the implementation of the Industrial Strategy launched in March 2020 and its following update of May 2021. Its members include Member States authorities, NGOs, industrial representations, research institutions and social partners representing different industrial ecosystems.

Its recently published report is the result of the structured dialogue among members on how to accelerate the deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies (AMTs) across the European industry. Among members which participated in the drafting of the document is also EuropaBio on behalf of the biomanufacturing industry.

Europe is leader in advanced manufacturing

Advanced manufacturing is based on the integration and convergence of the most advanced industrial technologies, i.e. automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and digitally connected solutions. New processes, new products as well as new business models based on this new approach are deemed to represent a fundamental competitive factor in the next few years.

Europe is currently well position in the ranking on “future of production” readiness, with 18 out of 25 countries considered by the World Economic Forum to be leading the change in manufacturing. Despite this, according to the report many efforts are still needed to accelerate the implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies in the EU, so not to be superseded by other fast-evolving competitors.

In order to achieve this challenging goal, the Industrial Forum identified seven different areas of attention, each of which is addressed by specific recommendations based on a SWOT analysis.

The seven areas of recommendation

The transition to new manufacturing models should, first of all, meet the EU sustainability goals established by the European Green Deal: the “net-zero industry” plan for renewables and industrial efficiency technologies is confirmed as a priority action, together with the expansion of the use of REPowerEU. The Commission is working on new energy savings directives, which should be timely implemented. Circularity of manufacturing processes and products is another main goal of EU’s industrial policies, to be supported by a set of new fit-for-purpose rules. A more rapid uptake of advanced manufacturing technologies should also be supported by both the availability of specific public procurement guidance and a targeted communication of the environmental benefits of European clean technologies.

The second area of action addresses how to improve access to capital, a key factor in ensuring the timely implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies. This may include a better use of public investment, as well as a cautious application of state aid instruments specifically targeted at later stages in the innovation and deployment process. The potential of these new technologies for sustainability should also be recognised within the upcoming EU Taxonomy de-legated acts.

The resilience of supply chains could be tackled by the rapid implementation of AMTs. In order to achieve this goal, the Industrial Forum highlighted the need for workable and proportionate rules on Due Diligence. No less important is the negotiation and activation of new Free Trade Agreements with third countries (such as the EU-Mercosur FTA). A critical area refers to the improvement of EU semiconductor capacity. According to the report, incentives and funding aimed to increase the supply chain resilience should be exempt from directing specific outcomes. The European institutions should also better support the local and regional industrial supply chains. Secure access to critical raw materials should be pursued by leveraging the trade policy.

The building of an EU Single Market is a main goal of the European Commission, also in the pharmaceutical field. Its freedoms should be safeguarded by narrowing down the scope of the Single Market Emergency Instrument, while promoting mitigation measures for advanced manufacturing. The Industrial Forum also recommends the availability of a single platform to provide companies with all the needed information to expand and/or export. Furthermore, a Single Market test should be included in the impact assessments of national laws to minimise the occurrence of gold-plating phenomena. New standards for AMTs would also be needed, an area which according to the Industrial Forum should conjugate an enhanced flexibility in standardisation requests and timely delivery in standard setting. Digital product standardisation should also be promoted, and adhesion to the New Legislative Framework should be ensured.

Data is a fundamental asset of the new economy. Recommendations in this area include supporting existing initiatives to create a strong European manufacturing data space, as well as ad-dressing the protection of both personal data and intellectual property rights and trade secrets. As artificial intelligence (AI) will assume an increasingly relevant role in future advanced manufacturing processes, the Forum recommends the development of clear, focused criteria on high-risk AI, while avoiding unnecessary regulation of industrial AI.

The availability of data should be pursued through the identification of a method for data collection in the advanced manufacturing category. It would also be important to generate trusted data sets at the European level for advanced manufacturing deployment, global competitive position, and economic / environmental / societal gains.

Many new skills will be needed in the next few years to handle the expansion of AMTs. To this instance, the Industrial Forum highlighted the importance to promote the harmonisation of Vocational Education and Training (VET) practices and qualification systems and to encourage women and girls to study STEM subjects and working in manufacturing. Other recommendations re-fer to the possibility of developing a Pact for Skills partnership and the proposal of a Blueprint Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing. A better entrepreneurial culture in Europe should also be promoted, as well as capitalisation on European creative industries.

Examples of biomanufacturing

Weaknesses to biomanufacturing identified by the Industrial Forum include the fact that it is still an emerging production process compared to chemical manufacturing. The report also mentions existing regulatory barriers, mainly linked to a process rather than product approvals pathway. Furthermore, significant investments in biomanufacturing are primarily located outside Europe. Possible risks identified by the report also refer to biomanufacturing being excluded or overlooked in key policymaking e.g. taxonomy supporting biomanufacture and sustainable financing.

The report includes two examples of AMTs linked to the health and agrifood sector. Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) represent one of the main areas of innovation in cancer treatment over the past two decades, in which the patient’s immune cells are engineered to produce the final immunotherapy. Many pharmaceutical companies are building specialised manufacturing facilities for CAR-T therapies within Europe, a biomanufacturing process which is highly complex and patient-specific, and requires long term investments, skills development, and integration into the European Union industrial base.

Biomanufacturing may also be applied to the production of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), that multi-step chemical synthesis is complex, requires hazardous agents and has low yields (~60%). Biotechnologies allow for the one-step production of vitamin B2, starting from vegetables as carbon sources and using a genetically modified bacterium (Bacillus subtilis) or fungus (Ashbya gossypii).


UK will participate to European research programmes

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The divergent road opened as a consequence of the Brexit, in January 2021, between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) is now converging again as for the possibility for UK researchers to participate to Horizon Europe (HE) and Copernicus scientific programmes. The agreement in principle reached on 7 September 2023 by the European Commission and the UK Government was facilitated by the previous Windsor Framework Agreement. It shall now be ratified by the Council of the European Union, and then adopted by the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes.

The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement proves that point. We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research.”, said the Presi-dent of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The possible association of the UK to Horizon Europe animated a vigorous debate in the past couple of years among the scientific international community, as well as that of other third countries such as Switzerland (those association is still pending, see below).

The current agreements in place between the UK and the EU are not comprehensive of the participation of UK’s students to the Erasmus+ programme, participation that was cancelled by the UK government in 2020.

The financial terms of the agreement

The new association of UK to both HE and Copernicus programmes will become operative star-ting 1 January 2024, superseding the previous transitional agreement that allowed UK researchers to apply and be evaluated as other potential beneficiaries under HE calls. It will become possible for UK researcher to access HE’s 2024 Funding Programme and Work Programme (including the coordination of consortia), and to participate in the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

According to the European Commission, the estimated annual contribution of the UK to Horizon Europe and the Copernicus component of the Space programme should be on average €2.6 billion, in line with the terms agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The EU Commission will issue twice a year a call for funds to the UK corresponding to the due contribution. The overall EU budget for Horizon Europe is €95.5 billion, plus contributions due by the various associated countries.

The agreement is also comprehensive of a correction mechanism referred to Horizon Europe, aimed to compensate the contribution of the UK, should its receipts in grants be higher than its contribution for grants. Under the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, an automatic correction to the UK’s contribution would occur if it reached a threshold of 8% over two successive years. A balance mechanism has also been put in place to compensate for the UK receiving significantly fewer grants than its contribution. In this instance, the level of UK participation may be improved, or (should it overpays by more than 12%), the issue may be object to scrutiny by the joint Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes to agree upon the measures needed to balance the situation.

A temporary and automatic mechanism has been also agreed to address any risk of critical underperformance by the UK should the imbalance exceed 16%, based on the consideration the country did not fully participate in HE in the past two years.

The main fields of collaboration

UK’s participation to European research programmes will focus on area of mutual interest, i.e. emerging technologies, climate change and health. The participation to strategic parts of Horizon Europe – including those related to strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security – is subject to the previous assessment of UK participants on equal terms with other associated countries (Art. 22(5) of the Horizon Europe Regulation). The participation to other parts of HE will occur on equal terms with researchers and organisations from EU Member States.

Copernicus is part of the European space programme. The association will allow the UK to access a state-of-the art capacity to monitor the Earth and its services. Among the main goals of the programme is the understanding and acting on environmental and climate change related challenges. The UK will also have access to EU Space Surveillance and Tracking services.

The reactions

The announcement of the agreement on the association of the UK to European research pro-grammes found very positive reactions among the different parties interested in solving the issue.

Joining the Horizon Europe programme is a huge win for the scientific research community, who have been pushing for resolution over the past few years. UK innovation and research de-pends on international collaborations which are crucial for driving advancements in all areas of science, including the discovery and early development of new medicines and vaccines”, said Janet Valentine, ABPI Executive Director, Innovation and Research Policy. “The UK accession to Horizon enables the two sides to reinvigorate their longstanding partnership in R&D, and directly contributes to UK growth and competitiveness in the life sciences sector by making the UK an attractive destination for talented researchers.”

This decision represents a long-awaited signal for renewed international collaboration on fundamental frontier research in Europe. It will strengthen the research of all involved, both in the EU and in the UK. At the ERC, we look forward to welcoming back researchers based in the UK, after the trying last few years. They have been sorely missed, and will now be able to participate again as from our 2024 grant competitions”, said the President of the ERC, Maria Leptin.

The academic world represented by Cesaer highlighted the reintegration of UK into Horizon Eu-rope and Copernicus reaffirms the commitment of both the EU and the UK to advancing global scientific excellence. The association of the European universities of science and technology also supports further progress in building a wider international scientific community, with particular reference to Switzerland.

Today, Europe’s universities celebrate the end of a long road that began in 2016 and look for-ward to rebuilding and further developing close partnershipssaid Josep M. Garrell, President of the European Universities Association.

We are extremely grateful for the efforts of everyone in the European research community who has worked tirelessly to help secure this agreement”, added Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International.

Switzerland is still waiting for the association

Despite Switzerland being a very important country for research in life sciences, and location of many of the major pharmaceutical industries, the country is still waiting to restart the negotiations with the EU for its association to the European research programmes. The exclusion of Switzerland from any form of collaboration was the result, in 2021, of the political divergence with the EU on many issues.

We feel alone in the middle of Europe,” Yves Flückiger, rector of the University of Geneva, told Business|Europe.

According to the article by David Matthews, the incumbent Swiss federal elections in October 2023 and the European elections of 2024 may slow down the negotiations on the new political relationship. The association of Switzerland to EU’s research programmes might then not occur before 2025. Some explanatory talks would be already ongoing, adds the article. Sympathy for researchers in Switzerland was expressed by the ERC President, Maria Leptin. “They are not alone in the sense they are loved by all the rest of us,” she said. “There is very high-level research being done in Switzerland, same as in the UK. We all want to be one group that competes at the same level and is evaluated by the same high-level panels.