The Basque Country has taken another step forward with the development of a Research, Development, and Innovation Programme on Ageing by boosting ageing within the regional Smart Specialization Strategy, RIS3-Euskadi. This means that stakeholders in the region will have the basis for better collaboration and cooperation that can boost synergies for launching more projects regarding medical, technological, and social solutions for the growing elderly population.

- I think that we made significant progress. Boosting research on ageing was one of the main goals of the ITHACA Action Plan. We achieved that, says researcher Ander Matheu, who is part of the lead core in implementing the institutional Ageing Strategy, IKAGURE.

An important aspect of establishing the Programme on Ageing is the possibility to attract more interest and resources for healthcare projects and social projects. How much more is yet to be calculated. However, the working group responsible for developing the Ageing Programme will access calls that focus on age-related research on a regional level.

Same language, same table, same problems

One common issue in the Basque Country's collaborative ecosystem was that different institutions, different groups, different people were working on the same topic. The lack of coordination led the actors to repeat the same research, the same solutions, and the same mistakes.

In addition to boosting age-related research, the ageing ecosystem has created a group consisting of all the main stakeholders in the region. This group is discussing and working on solutions related to ageing through the establishment of the Ageing Programme in the framework of the ITHACA project and the RIS3-Euskadi.

- The ecosystem was ready to progress in the correct sense and the ITHACA project was the opportunity to start the journey. We have started to talk in the same language, around the same table, about the same problems, identifying which difficulties prevented us from making progress, says Xabier Elcoroaristizabal Martín, project manager at the Basque Foundation for Health Innovation and Research.

This structure aims to benefit multiple actors. As research institutions get more funding, companies will have the knowledge to develop solutions transferred faster and citizens benefit from these new solutions.

More opportunities for multidisciplinary projects

Centers involved in the project have already started to benefit from the development of solutions in the ecosystem. In one of the latest calls, the regional stakeholder group has established a collaboration that means that multiple actors can apply for a multidisciplinary project focused on ageing.

- All calls have the possibility to be multidisciplinary, and now that we know each other, we can take on projects related to the silver economy that offers solutions to not only medical problems among the elderly population but also technological and social problems, says Ander Matheu.

Next, the stakeholder group will develop what priorities should be delivered in the next years based on the Research, Development, and Innovation Programme on Ageing.

Simultaneously, the group will try to identify the region’s strengths and weaknesses that are to be improved to develop products and services that can promote the wellbeing of citizens and the economic growth of the region, according to the scope of RIS3-Euskadi. A first version of the Programme will be done in February 2021.

The regional stakeholder group focuses on four big axes
1. People: Research related to elderly people.
2. Environment and Community: Addressing social care combined with the environment.
3. System: All problems with structures and governance.
4. Technology: Transversal Sub-thematic related to all the other areas.

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