The Relevance of Ensuring Networking and Collaborative Work

At the beginning of October, Alzheimer Europe and Neuronet co-hosted a European Parliament workshop entitled: “The Innovative Health Initiative: Building on the success of the Innovative Medicines Initiative”. Here, Carlos Díaz, CEO of Synapse Research Management Partners was part of the event, talking about the lessons learned in the Neuronet consortium.

Neuronet reflects on the scientific system in a different way, as it is not about research or investigation – as most of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) neurodegeneration portfolio projects are – but is focused on building bridges among the different organizations and actors.

Neuronet is referred to as a “coordination and support action” among the IMI projects, and its main objective is to find synergies and promote collaboration across the different projects in the portfolio. In this way, the consortium connects 264 organizations from 25 countries, with more than 2,300 individuals working daily in projects with an investment of more than 380 million EUR.

The consortium has been focused on understanding the landscape of the IMI portfolio from different angles to identify the best way that projects can relate to each other, while also inviting projects to participate in this process as well.

The Knowledge Base is a tool developed by Synapse as a support element for Neuronet, to promote the portfolio’s visibility, networking, and participation. Of particular interest is the Asset Map, which Carlos explained “aims to extract the most tangible results of the projects and move away from the ‘project’ logic, since it is an important concept, but at the end, what remains is the asset. This is what should be sustained in the future and should be leveraged by others as well.”

Neuronet has also evaluated the impact of the IMI portfolio. With a specific focus on members and partners from the pharmaceutical industry, Neuronet surveyed how IMI projects have impacted their companies, daily activities, professional careers, and networks. The results were broadly positive, as respondents said that IMI projects had a mid-to-high impact on, for example, their visibility, establishment of strategic partnership, and attracting new talent.

This survey identified a very important area of opportunity area: sustainability. This is a complex aspect of a project’s lifespan, because of the lack of clear incentives, the different points of view of the institutions and researchers, among other issues. To address this, Neuronet implemented different actions to harness the potential and existing expertise across projects. One of these actions was the creation of Task Forces, designed to tackle specific synergies and identify the elements of each project that could be helpful for others.

One example of a Task Force has been dedicated to the Neuro Cohort initiative. This initiative is designed to enhance the visibility and participation of a network of research-active sites and enable a more efficient project setup. It currently represents 39 sites. We will share more details about the Neuro Cohort initiative in due course.

With these kinds of initiatives and actions, Neuronet has achieved its aims as they are oriented to a systems leadership approach and a more participative structure. “Neuronet does not have an agenda, we are neither academics nor focus in a specific area. We have a completely neutral position”, added Carlos. The success of this position was reflected in the IMI projects’ evaluation of Neuronet and its services, which has been very positive and highly recognised.

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This is how Neuronet works to make the IMI projects’ efforts more valuable. By putting their strengths at the service of research and patients’ communities, moving the focus away from projects to assets and, mainly, to people.