August 19, 2020
The European Society of Radiology (ESR) has recently published a statement, expressing its regret for the European Union's decision to reduce its projected funding for a variety of upcoming health and research projects. This decision, it argues, will take a toll on European research, and will hinder the EU's potential to become an innovation hub for AI and healthcare in the future. The decision, which was made on 21 July 2020, saw EU leaders reaching an agreement on the budget for COVID-19 recovery and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the seven-year framework programme regulating the European Union's annual budget. The agreement resulted in a proposed reduction of EU health and research budgets. The budget presented for Horizon Europe, the next Research and Innovation framework programme, was reduced from €94.4 billion to €80.9 billion. Budgets for the Digital Europe Programme, which aims to boost investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and make the European Union a frontrunner in the sector, and the newly proposed EU4Health programme, intended to prepare for the next pandemic,were also significantly reduced. Given that research and AI are the major drivers for radiology, as well as healthcare advancement, and are beneficial to the prosperity of our societies, the ESR considers the decision as a step backwards for European healthcare. Previously, the society has voiced its enthusiasm for the ambitious health agenda for Europe, with its commitments to move the European Data Space forward and the establishment of the impressive EU4Health programme. It has consistently called for AI and health data to be used to its full potential, for more integrated and person-centred approaches, a coordinated action on non-communicable diseases and for medical imaging to have a key role in cancer screening, detection and early diagnosis. It argues that these ambitions will be difficult to achieve with plummeting health and research budgets at EU level. Although a swift agreement was required by the European Union, the final agreement fails to acknowledge the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and the investment needs in health research to promote and protect public health. The statement concludes by highlighting the need for European institutions to collaborate closely with each other and to continue supporting strong and ambitious health and research budgets for the well-being and prosperity of European citizens. A full copy of the statement can be found here.