Health and related sectors are a central aspect of human existence and thus attract particular attention of citizens. The sectors of biomedical engineering and the medical and care services industry – including research and development – are among the fastest growing industrial areas, in terms of turnover as well as employment. Under biomedical engineering we understand the bridging between methods of engineering and medicine and biology for diagnostic and therapeutic measures in healthcare – including, among others, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical drugs, various types of devices for chemical or biological analysis or processing as well as the development of medical equipment and technology for cure, treatment and prevention of disease. The combination of research and development, engineering and industrial production, and medical and care services is particularly important.
While the sectors are highly interrelated, they are still predominantly regulated, and mostly nationally organised and protected. This is rather inconsistent with a number of principles of the European Union, like the freedom of movement of services and people, with article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (transversal clause), article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on “health care” and specific policy orientations of the European Commission.
A forceful promotion and ultimately the establishment of a single market combining biomedical engineering with the medical and care services industry – in combination with ITC and tele-medicine - would have tremendous advantages for European society, its citizens and the EU’s economic development – especially in respect to saving resources, promoting entrepreneurial opportunities and initiatives, reducing regional disparities, overcoming national blockages in health policies, alleviating social protection systems, coordinating R&D in health and care, boosting innovation, raising Europe’s position in global competition, pursuing the 2020 goals, implementing fundamental rights more effectively, setting principles of quality, promoting labour market mobility, etcetera.
The own-initiative opinion will present the EESC’s views on the current limitations and barriers in respect to higher competition, better coordination and cooperation of these combined industrial sectors in Europe and its increased competitiveness internationally. It will indicate ways and means to overcome current problems by pursuing agreed objectives of the EU and by fully using the applicable legal provisions of the Union and proposing new legislation, as appropriate.