Innovative prostheses can help to restore a person's lost abilities and senses. Research in the field of medical technology is working to provide new technological solutions for complex medical applications. Minimally invasive surgery has revolutionized the diagnosis and therapy of diseases by using miniaturized treatment and surgical procedures. The visible success of these methods today shows the possibilities that medical technology holds for public health care in the future.
Medical technology is a multidisciplinary field that covers a broad spectrum of research and applications. Its distinguishing characteristic in Germany is its great innovative potential and high-quality developments. The advances made in medical technology - such as miniaturized treatment and surgical procedures, state-of-the-art imaging techniques, or enhanced means of communication as with telemedicine - are revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and benefiting both patients and advanced research.
Former in-patient services can now be provided as out-patient services. Side-effects and complications are substantially reduced by minimally invasive surgery. At the same time, however, steps must be taken to ensure that the development of technological innovations, particularly in specialized high-tech areas, reduces the cost of care or clearly improves the quality of care at a justifiable cost.
Today, research and developments in medical technology are based on application and patient needs and funded accordingly. To accentuate the perspective of patient benefit, medical technology activities under the health research programme are closely connected to the BMBF's other programmes. Furthermore, the disciplines involved are networked more closely. Entirely new approaches to research are also given an opportunity to unfold. With all these funding activities, the BMBF aims to strengthen and further enhance the growth market for medical technology. Health economy considerations will play a major role in all new medical developments in future.
The world market for medical products is worth about 170 billion euros. German companies in this sector achieve a turnover of about 12 billion euros with a staff of about 85,000. They are thus the third largest supplier of medical technology products, after the United States and Japan. Traditionally, German medical technology has been oriented very much towards international markets: Over 50% of products are exported, and the EU member states are the main importers. Experts believe that this industry will continue to have great growth potential.
Medical technology "Made in Germany" is making a significant contribution to Germany's health care system and, in a most fundamental way, to the well-being of German citizens. At the same time the medical technology industry is a major player in the national economy in terms of exports.
In light of advances made in medicine, demographic change and critical conditions on the global market (extreme competitive pressure, heavily regulated markets, local conditions governing national health care systems), the medical technology innovation system is about to undergo great change. The Federal Government is meeting this challenge by initiating a whole-of-government national strategy process called "Innovations in Medical Technology".
On 20 October 2011, State Secretaries Dr. Georg Schütte (BMBF), Thomas Ilka (Federal Ministry of Health) and Ernst Burgbacher (Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology) appointed high-ranking policy-makers, representatives of industry, science and the health care field to the Steering Committee of the national strategy process. The Committee will bring together more than 100 experts in five working groups to develop recommendations for action in future medical technology innovation policy.
A central contact office provides support to the ministries, the Steering Committee and the working groups as they implement the process. The Strategy Process in Medical Technology office is located at the Berlin offices of VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH .
The process was put into motion at the Conference on the Future of Medical Technology on 20 June 2011 in Berlin. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and the Federal Ministry of Health are jointly launching the Strategy Process in Medical Technology, which aims to accelerate the process of innovation and to improve patient care through the involvement of all the relevant players in politics, industry and science. The task and objective of the strategy process are to lay the groundwork necessary to formulate coherent innovation policy in medical technology.
In consultation with the ministries involved, representatives from industry, science, health care service providers and health insurance companies will consider the following questions with a view to developing recommendations for action: Which lead markets will there be in five, ten and twenty years? Which business models show signs of promise? Which interfaces will generate innovation? How can we expedite clinical translation? How can support for young scientists be improved?
Parliamentary State Secretary Helge Braun also announced a new BMBF funding measure at the Future of Medical Technology conference. Under the umbrella of its successful "KMU-innovativ" scheme, the BMBF's "KMU-innovativ: Medical Technology" initiative will make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises in the medical technology industry to access research funding and will support costly cutting-edge research within these companies. The BMBF will allocate an annual 10 million euros under the funding measure. The measure represents the BMBF's response to the rising expectations and greater challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises in the medical technology industry.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) shape Germany's medical technology industry in a very particular way. They are a key driver of innovation in that they are quick to take up scientific findings for the development of new medical technologies and thereby accelerate technology transfer.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research's objective in its KMU-innovativ scheme is to target and promote the innovative potential of cutting-edge research at small and medium-sized enterprises. The risks associated with cutting-edge research are often difficult for SMEs to carry. Since 2011 "KMU-innovativ Medical Technology" has eased the application and allocation procedures for SMEs in the medical technology industry. The possibility of securing funding for medical technology research will be made more attractive, in particular for first-time applicant SMEs. The process is made simpler and quicker, and guidance services for SMEs in the medical technology industry will be developed further.
The campaign "Research in Germany - Land of Ideas" is supporting the National Strategy Process "Innovations in Medical Technology" through internationally focused promotional measures. Germany's research and technology landscape will be featured at industry-specific events, giving interested partners abroad the opportunity to make numerous contacts with German research institutions and strong technology companies before the end of 2013. Presentations will be made at workshops, specialist congresses and conferences, events for opinion leaders, cooperation exchanges, and lectures that are aimed at researchers and decision-makers at R&D-oriented companies
More information regarding the Research in Germany - Land of Ideas campaign is available here.
The BMBF presented a "Medical Technology Action Plan" for the first time in 2007. The Plan pools the varied funding activities of the Federal Government and of different BMBF programmes into three main topic areas. These are:
A Coordination Group for Medical Technology was established to ensure the internal coordination of the different BMBF funding programmes. The Medical Technology Committee (MTA) of the Health Research Council serves as an external advisory body. The BMBF will provide its funding in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology to take into account the fact that the market for medical products is largely steered by the health care system. Research funding must therefore consider the given parameters and promote their positive development wherever possible. Securing medical progress also requires broad public debate, and this requires intensive public information campaigns about research developments.
Further information about medical technology is available here.
The innovation competition to promote medical technology has been a great success. The BMBF has held this competition every year since 1999. It extends researchers the opportunity to realize unusual and innovative ideas for medical technology products that will ultimately provide many people with better health and quality of life.
The competition has consisted of two modules since 2006. In the "basis" module, funding of up to 300,000 euros is provided for key experiments that demonstrate the feasibility of creative ideas for development. If successful key experiments have been carried out, the "transfer" competition module provides funding of up to 1.5 million euros for research and development projects in which industrial enterprises are directly involved. By funding both these two modules, the BMBF is implementing the High-Tech Strategy to find solutions to crucial problems in medicine. To date, 1,093 applications have been submitted, and 112 winners have been selected. The BMBF presented the award for innovative medical technology for the twelfth time in October 2010. There have been 15 winners so far.
Early and precise diagnosis is the main prerequisite for the rapid treatment of illnesses. Imaging techniques are the traditional instrument for providing a non-invasive illustration of processes in the living organism. The use of computers and the development of new processes even make it possible to analyse cells and organs in their interaction with the overall organism as well as to observe the organism "in action" over a limited period of time. The further development of imaging techniques is therefore crucial for medical diagnosis and also for public health care in general.
The BMBF has issued a call for proposals for research collaborations on Molecular Imaging in Medicine - MoBiMed as a measure to develop different techniques and processes of molecular imaging further.
Together with Siemens AG, the BMBF is also supporting the development of a new type of facility at Research Centre Jülich, which will combine magnetic resonance tomography with the positron emission tomography (PET) in a hybrid imaging process. Construction work on the facility, which will work with extraordinarily high field strengths, started in Jülich on 27 June 2007. A first priority of the new method will be the monitoring of tumours and neurological processes in the brain.
Innovative technical aids can help to restore an individual's lost functions and abilities or - if restoration is not possible - support and/or replace these functions. At the same time, existing expertise in academic and industrial research in Germany is being brought together in interdisciplinary research collaborations. The development of suitable cooperation projects contributes decisively towards enhancing Germany's attractiveness as a research location and strengthening the competitiveness of German companies.
Future-oriented concepts for planning and performing surgery in several disease areas will be developed and implemented under the lead vision. They are to take into account the future demands on the health care system in an ageing society. The aim is to develop user-friendly, integrative surgery systems for different fields of surgery. Consideration will also be given to intervention techniques (such as minimally invasive and endoluminal interventions) and to techniques for ambulatory surgery. The aim is to exert less strain on patients while guaranteeing a high degree of therapeutic benefit.
Support is also being given to innovative individual approaches in medical technology, such as that of the research collaboration on retina implants. The collaboration develops an electronic retina prosthesis for patients with retinitis pigmentosa which is to replace the function of the degenerated retina and restore limited sight to patients. Four thematically focused working groups at twelve universities and non-university research institutes are currently collaborating on this national project.
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