Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

ERA-NET NEURON II Report Summary

Project ID: 291840
Funded under: FP7-HEALTH
Country: Germany

Final Report Summary - ERA-NET NEURON II (Network of European funding for Neuroscience research)

Executive Summary:
Research into the human brain and its diseases is one of the key challenges of our century, since among the many diseases affecting health, disorders of the brain are major causes for morbidity, mor-tality and impaired quality of life. Despite some progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of the various neurological and psychiatric disorders, research is far from being able to offer solutions how to conquer them. Efforts to develop curative treatments or prevention strategies have so far not been very successful. Thus, a concerted effort of research groups is needed to reach the long term goal of curing patients with disorders of the brain and nervous system and supporting their relatives. To support this, concerted and coordinated activities are crucial at the level of ministries and agencies that fund research into these disorders.
The ERA-NET NEURON II coordinated national programmes for disease-related neuroscience re-search in 24 participant funding organisations across 18 European Member States, Candidate and As-sociated countries, and Canada. By extending the collaboration beyond the European Research Area into North America the global dimension of brain research was reflected and added substantially to the effectiveness of the ERA-NET.
During the runtime of the project (01/2012- 12/2015) NEURON II achieved:
▪ Maintenance and further development of a work platform for funding agencies and ministries in Eu-rope and outside European geographic boundaries.
▪ Providing a reliable funding opportunity for transnational collaborative research through regular Joint Transnational Calls. To achieve this, close relations to the relevant research community and other stakeholders were kept in order to flexibly react to the needs and new developments in disease-related neuroscience research. It was equally important to provide support for early-career scientist in order to help them build an independent research career.
▪ Providing a platform for collaboration with complementary pan-European activities such as Joint Programming Initiatives, Mental Health Roadmap, ESFRI, E-Rare2 etc.
▪ Development of a vision of a strategic framework for cooperation including financial and le-gal/administrative concepts and a business plan for a sustainable NEURON network.
Partners in NEURON II were the following ministries and funding agencies: Austria - Austrian Science Fund (FWF); Belgium: Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Vlaanderen (FWO); Canada - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); Canada - Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRQS); Finland - Academy of Finland (AKA); France - Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR); France - French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); France - National Institute for Health and Med-ical Research (INSERM); Germany - Project Management Agency in the German Aerospace Centre (PT-DLR) for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF); NEURON co-ordination; Iceland - The Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNIS); Israel - Chief Scientist Office - Ministry of Health (CSO-MOH); Italy - Ministry of Health (MOH); Luxemburg - National Research Fund (FNR); Poland - National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR); Portugal - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT); Romania - Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports - National Authority for Scientific Research (ANCS); Romania - Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research Development & Innovation Funding; Spain - Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO); Spain - Fund for Health Research (ISCIII-FIS); Sweden - Swedish Research Council (SRC); United Kingdom - Medical Research Council. As associated partners during the reporting period the Slovak Academy of Science (SAS) and the Latvian Academy of Science (VIAA, formerly known as LAS) joined the consortium and participated in three Joint Transnational Calls.

Project Context and Objectives:
Research into the human brain and its diseases is one of the key challenges of our century, since among the many diseases affecting health, disorders of the brain are major causes for impaired quality of life. Despite some progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of the various neurological and psychiatric disorders, research is far from being able to offer solutions how to conquer them and the development of curative treatments or prevention strategies has not been very successful. Thus, a concerted effort of research groups and the organizations funding them is needed to reach the long term goal of treating patients with disorders of the brain and nervous system and supporting their rela-tives.
The ERA-NET NEURON II coordinated national and regional programmes for disease-related neuro-science research in 24 participant funding organisations across 18 European Member States, Candidate and Associated countries, and Canada. By extending the collaboration beyond the European Research Area into North America the global dimension of brain research was reflected and added substantially to the effectiveness of the ERA-NET.
NEURON II built on the achievements and experience gained from its predecessor project NEURON I, 2007-2011 (funded in FP6).
In addition to Joint Transnational Calls for proposals, NEURON II focused on activities to monitor, and if necessary improve the network performance. This work prepared and lead to strategic activities aimed at a future transnational cooperation and research funding framework for disease-related neuroscienc-es. For that purpose a proposal for a Co-fund measure under H2020 was submitted to call HCO 11.
In this context NEURON II pursued the following objectives:
• Maintenance and further development of a work platform for funding agencies and ministries in Europe and outside European geographic boundaries
• Consolidating the integration of new participants to broaden the basis of experience and the im-pact of joint actions
• Providing a reliable funding opportunity for transnational collaborative research through regular Joint Transnational Calls
• Maintenance of close relations to the relevant research community and other stakeholders in order to flexibly react to the needs and new developments in disease-related neuroscience re-search
• Provision of support for early-career scientists in order to help them build an independent re-search career
• Analysing in depth the output of the ERA-NET NEURON (I and II) with regard to the Joint Transnational Calls and other activities
• Development of a strategic framework for cooperation in a sustainable NEURON network
• Providing a platform for collaboration with complementary pan-European activities such as Joint Programming Initiatives, Mental Health Roadmap, ESFRI, E-Rare2 etc.
The work plan focussed on networking of funding organisations, communicating with the relevant stakeholders in research and policy, and developing joint strategies for programme opening with the goal to create and maintain a sustainable framework for a transnational network of research funding for disease-related neurosciences. Through opening the national programmes into joint funding activities, collaboration of high quality research groups from the participating countries was supported and coor-dinated for the benefit of patients suffering from diseases of the brain and nervous system.
To achieve these goals, seven work packages were designed, four of them built on the equivalent WP (1,2,3,5) in the previous ERA-NET, while entirely new goals were addressed in two WPs (6, 7) and the young scientist support was strengthened. Briefly:

WP1 comprised the network coordination and management of tools for communication, administrative and financial issues etc. In addition to mere management activities, this WP also ensured the textual coordination of work for WP2 - WP7.

Through WP2 information about the point of view and expectations from the scientific community and e.g. patients’ associations was funnelled into the network. This WP provided focused foresight activities to ensure that the work and decisions of NEURON II were based on the state of the art and latest re-search results. A Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) was developed for NEURON II and beyond, sup-porting the sustainability plans of the network, conceptualized in WP7. This WP required and received strong input from the Scientific Advisory Board. The work package was led by the French National Insti-tute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and the French National Centre for Scientific Re-search (CNRS). The scientific content of the SRA was developed by a group of international research-ers who covered a broad range of expertise in fundamental neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, and sensory organs. The joint effort was chaired by the NEURON Scientific Advisory Board chair.
WP3 focused on joint funding activities through the development and implementation of five full-fledged Joint Transnational Calls. The mechanisms for defining the topics of the calls were described as well as the review procedure to select the best proposals.
Joint Transnational Calls (JTCs) were:
2012 Novel Methods and Approaches towards the Understanding of Brain Diseases,
2013 European Research Projects on Mental Disorders,
2014 European Research Projects on Neuroinflammation,
2015 European Research Projects on Neurodevelopmental Disorders,
2015 European Research Projects on Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) of Neuroscience.

Since 2008 (NEURON I) research grants of more than 80 million euros were provided for multinational projects in various areas of research into brain function and its disorders. More than 300 research groups from Europe, Canada, and Israel pursued their research plans in 86 funded consortia. The output from these consortia in terms of enhanced knowledge and improved diagnostic measures and therapies is impressive.

Support for young scientists was recognized as an important issue in all countries and is one of the ma-jor goals of NEURON II. The ambition of this WP4 was considerably increased as compared to NEU-RON I. An important part of the joint NEURON activities was dedicated to young scientists. There was a shift in emphasis in favour of the Mid-Term Symposium, because partners agreed that the monitoring effect will be higher in the middle rather than at the end of the runtime and - along a similar line of ar-guments - because networking of young researchers is more effective earlier in the projects. During the lifetime of NEURON II four Mid-Term and three final symposia (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 reports thereof at http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/) were organized and the comparison led to the decision that the instrument of final symposium should no longer be used in the future (in conjunction with WP6).
In particular the Mid-Term symposium in Helsinki 2015 followed the same agenda as the previous final symposium, i.e. lectures and talks of the project coordinators (COO) and Principal Investigators (PIs) and poster sessions for the early-career scientists. The Mid-Term symposium was kept restricted to participating scientists of all funded research groups and NEURON members. Such confidentiality en-sured open discussion of even premature results. This restricted frame and audience equalled that of the previous final symposia. Internet reports by NEURON were carefully consented with the research groups before publication. Through exchange between graduate students and postdocs among the la-boratories in the NEURON-funded research consortia exchange of know how was fostered. As stated above, the Mid-Term symposia served monitoring (WP6) and networking (WP4) purposes.

The already implemented annual ‘Excellent Paper in Neuroscience’ Award provided to the young scientists the opportunity to present their work to a broader scientific public and thus gave them high visibility. During project runtime four awards were announced. Awardees were invited to either NEU-RON symposia or the FENS Forum (2012, 2014) for a special lecture on their winning topic.

The dissemination of knowledge and achievements obtained by NEURON II towards relevant stake-holders (scientific community, patient organisations, health policy makers etc.) was ensured by WP5 through workshops, newsletters, video clips, press releases and internet publications.

Evaluation and monitoring were important tasks to increase efficiency and secure constant improve-ment of the network. The output of the NEURON-funded projects from the Joint Transnational Calls was monitored as well as the ERA-NET consortium itself in WP6.

The future participation in a long lasting European cooperation in the area of disease-related neurosci-ence demanded a common strategy for a sustainable framework for cooperation. WP7 aimed to devel-op a vision for cooperation among participants as well as with other related pan-European initiatives. A business plan was elaborated to ensure the continuation of the network.

The funding programmes involved in NEURON aimed at a better understanding of diseases of the brain and nervous system, which included all diseases traditionally viewed as neurological or psychiatric. In this regard, the research area covered by NEURON serves more than 120 million patients in Europe (in this figure patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases – about 6 million in 2005 - are excluded due to avoidance of overlap with the Joint Programming Initiative for Neurodegenerative Diseases JPND, see below).

The issue of focussing the ERA-NET on a subgroup of these diseases was repeatedly discussed with all partners. There was a clear preference to rather stay with a broad approach. The division of the topic into subfields (e.g. only neurological diseases or only psychiatric diseases) appeared artificial, and in most national programmes several research areas and brain diseases are covered. In addition, the strength of the national research communities in some partner countries with regard to successful par-ticipation in the NEURON JTCs is not equally distributed. Therefore, the strategy of launching calls with broad topics from different disease groups or horizontal areas has proved very successful in involving the best research groups from as many partner countries as possible.

All decisions, especially those involving the mobilisation of funds were done on the principle of variable geometry, in which national aspects were taken into account and partners decided independently and at any given time of the then-running ERA-NET how far they were willing and able to join the common activities. Details were laid down in minutes, agreements and contracts, where necessary. Decisions about a JTC topic (and other NEURON activities) were made taking into account the approaches by other European initiatives in the brain research area, especially the Mental Health Roadmap and the Joint Programming Initiative JPND, thus ensuring a complementary way rather than duplication. Upon Council decision in 2008, the Commission launched Joint Programming Initiatives as a new measure with ‘Combating Neurodegenerative Diseases, particularly Alzheimer's Disease' selected as the pilot Joint Programming (JPND).
The general philosophies of NEURON and JPND are quite distinct. The NEURON broad scientific ap-proach is designed to foster collaboration of as many funding organizations and research groups as possible to support the ERA at the level of excellent research projects initiated by calls for proposals. JPND is more focused by addressing only one group of brain diseases that is of especially high societal relevance. This group of diseases will be tackled in depth, and a broad spectrum of instruments is en-visaged beyond calls for pure research proposals, e.g. developing measures for harmonising Cerebro-spinal Fluid handling standards.

All activities served the preparation of programme opening which was indeed reflected in the five Transnational Joint Calls for proposals during runtime of the project. Continuous input went into this process from the monitoring activities in WP6 to ensure high quality and a match of the research agen-da to research and policy developments.

Cooperation with existing European instruments such as JPND, ERA-NETs or ESFRI was part of the NEURON work plan. Therefore, NEURON continued the dialogue with JPND to use existing synergies between JPND and the ERA-NET. Tight links already exist since the NEURON coordinator at the same time acts as leader of the JPND steering committee. In addition, there is considerable overlap of coun-tries, funding organisations and representing persons in both initiatives. Contacts are also well established already with E-Rare2, ECRIN, and the Mental Health Initiative.

Project Results:
Work platform for funding agencies and ministries
Most partners had already worked together in NEURON I. Partners from Iceland (RANNIS), Belgium (FWO), and Portugal (FCT) were integrated in the NEURON II consortium right from the start. They participated in the joint calls for proposals, hosted meetings and/or contributed to various Work Pack-ages. In 2014 the network has even further grown, since the Latvian Academy of Sciences (LAS) and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) participated in three Joint Transnational Calls (JTCs) for pro-posals (2013, 2014, and 2015) and joined NEURON II as full partners. Also, the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) from Belgium participated in two JTCs without joining the NEURON II consortium agreement. Representatives of VIAA (LAS), SAS, and FNRS participated in all NEURON II meetings during the reporting period.
Reliable funding source for transnational collaborative research through regular Joint Transnational Calls
During the reporting period NEURON II launched five Joint Transnational Calls for proposals (JTCs). Details and the results of the calls are published on http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/196.php.
2012 Novel Methods and Approaches towards the Understanding of Brain Diseases,
The call was launched in January 2012 jointly by 14 NEURON II partner organisations from 13 coun-tries. 184 transnational consortia comprising more than 700 research groups submitted pre-proposals. In a two stage review process, 11 excellent consortia comprising 47 research groups were selected for funding. All proposals rated excellent by the Peer Review Panel could be funded, with a total funding volume of more than 11 million euros.

2013 European Research Projects on Mental Disorders,
The call was launched in January 2013 jointly by 17 NEURON II partner organisations from 16 coun-tries. In addition to the 15 participating NEURON II partners, funding bodies from Latvia and Slovakia joined the call. NEURON received 91 pre-proposals. Twelve transnational research consortia are fund-ed under the umbrella of the NEURON JTC2013. In total, 48 research groups from eleven European countries, Canada and Israel collaborate in these projects. The total funding volume of the call adds up to 10 M €.

2014 European Research Projects on Neuroinflammation,
The call was launched in January 2014 jointly by 19 NEURON II partner organisations from 17 coun-tries. 136 transnational consortia comprising more than 369 research groups submitted pre-proposals. In total, 43 research groups from 17 European countries, Canada and Israel collaborate in these projects. The total funding volume of the call adds up to 10.1 M €.

JTC 2015: Neurodevelopmental Disorders
The call was launched in January 2015 jointly by 16 NEURON II partner organisations from 14 coun-tries. 101 (98 eligible) transnational consortia comprising more than 411 research groups submitted pre-proposals. In a two-stage review process, 10 excellent consortia comprising 43 research groups were selected for funding. The total funding volume was approx. 8.3 million euros.
JTC 2015: European Research Projects on Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) of Neuroscience
The call was launched in January 2015 jointly by 6 NEURON II partner organisations from 6 countries. 91 transnational consortia comprising more than 287 research groups submitted pre-proposals. In a two-stage review process, 5 excellent consortia comprising 17 research groups were selected for funding. The total funding volume was approx. 3 million euros.
Interface to the neuroscience community
Maintenance of a close relationship to the research community is among the strengths of the ERA-NET NEURON II. Four workshops and seven symposia were organised in the reporting period to allow for a direct interaction of researchers and funding organisations. The Scientific Advisory Board was in-volved in several aspects of these NEURON activities.
Workshops to support the research agenda of NEURON II:
• Neuroinflammation, Paris, January 2012, Report published.
• Neurodevelopment and related disorders, Reykjavik, May, 2013, Report published.
• Synaptopathies, Bonn May 2014. Report published.
• External insults to the nervous system, Bucharest, May 2015. Report published.
In total, 28 speakers were invited to the NEURON II workshops. All reports can be downloaded from http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/353.php.
Final symposium to monitor the progress of the NEURON-funded projects:
• JTC 2009 ‘New Technologies’, final symposium, En Bokek, January 2013.
• JTC 2010 ‘Mental Disorders’, final symposium, Lisbon, January 2014.
• JTC 2011 ‘Cerebrovascular Diseases’, final symposium, Vienna, January 2015.
Mid-Term Symposium to monitor the progress of the NEURON-funded projects:
• JTC 2010 ‘Mental Disorders’, Mid-Term symposium, Como, May 2012.
• JTC 2011 ‘Stroke’, Mid-Term symposium, Warsaw, September 2013.
• JTC 2012 ‘Novel Methods’, Mid-Term symposium, Malaga, September 2014.
• JTC 2013 ‘Mental Disorders’, Mid-Term symposium, Helsinki September 2015

At the seven Mid-Term and Final symposia of the NEURON-funded projects in total 73 speakers pre-sented their results.
Support measures for early-career scientists
The early-career scientist (ECS) award EPNA (Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award) for out-standing European neuroscience research is launched on an annual basis.
July 2012: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Neuroscience Forum in Barcelona. The winners of EPNA 2011 were Dr. Fanie Barnabé from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and Dr. Fer-nando Kasanetz from the Université de Bordeaux, France, for their papers “Origin of New Glial Cells in Intact and Injured Adult Spinal Cord” in the journals CELL STEM CELL 7, 470–482 (2010), and “Transi-tion to Addiction Is Associated with a Persistent Impairment in Synaptic Plasticity” in the journal SCI-ENCE 328 25 (2010), respectively. The awardees presented their work in a special conference session reserved for the award. The lectures were attended by more than 200 persons.
The 2012 EPNA was awarded on January 8th, 2013 in En Bokek, Israel. The three young authors, Anat London, Elena Itskovich, and Inbal Benhar from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, had con-tributed equally to the paper: "Neuroprotection and progenitor cell renewal in the injured adult murine retina requires healing monocyte-derived macrophages" in the JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MEDI-CINE 208, 23-39 (2011), and were honoured in an evening ceremony during the Neuron NSC meet-ing/final symposium ‘New Technologies’. The prize was awarded by the EPNA organizers from AKA and FRQS.
July 2014: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Neuroscience in Milan. The winner of the EPNA 2013 was Dr. Nadia Kaouane from the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna (Austria) for her paper “Glucocorticoids can induce PTSD-like memory impairments in mice” in the jour-nal Science (Issue 335, p 1510, 2012). The awardee presented her work in a special conference ses-sion re-served for the award. More than 100 people attended the lecture.
The ceremony of the EPNA 2014 took place at the NEURON Vienna meeting final symposium, January 2015. The winner Dr. Anai Gonzalez Cordero from the University College London- Institute of Ophthalmology presented her paper ‘Photoreceptor precursors derived from three-dimensional embryonic stem cell cultures integrate and mature within adult degenerate retina’ (Nature Biotechnology, 2013, issue 31; p. 741–747). The prize was awarded to her by the EPNA organizers from AKA and FRQS.
The winner of the EPNA 2015 is Dr. Julien Courtin from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland (at INSERM, Université de Bordeaux at time of publication), for his paper “Pre-frontal parvalbumin interneurons shape neuronal activity to drive fear expression in the journal Nature (issue 505 p. 92-96). The ERA NET NEURON / EPNA Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, July 6, 2016 in Copenhagen at the 10th Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Neuroscience Forum.
Poster sessions at NEURON symposia: A poster session was held at the final symposium for the NEURON-funded consortia from JTC2009 ‘Technology Development’ that took place in January 2013 in Ein Bokek, Israel. During a poster tour, PhD students and postdocs from the funded projects had the oppor-tunity to present their results to members of the Peer Review Panel, who had evaluated the ap-plications to that call for proposals. The external experts and representatives of the NEURON funding organisations were equally impressed by the excellent outcome of the projects.
Networking event: During the 9th FENS (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies) Forum in Milan, Italy, NEURON started a new endeavour: an evening networking event. On July 8, 2014, over 40 early-career scientists mixed and mingled with NEURON representatives and well reputed researchers between 7 and 9 pm. Not only early-career scientists that are connected via NEURON funded projects but also from other projects, institutions and areas found common interests and concerns. Despite the rather competitive semi-final football match in the world championship the same evening, people were keen to discuss matters of career development and possibilities to apply for research funding.
JTC analysis: The chances of young researchers to succeed in the NEURON JTCs were analysed in a monitoring study to explore the position of young scientists in the JTC “Technology Development” launched in 2009 during NEURON I. Based on the study, no indication of a bias toward older research-ers was observed. This study contributed to the ongoing discussion about possibilities to increase numbers of young scientists as Principal Investigators in the NEURON-funded consortia. The hypothe-sis had been raised that young scientists are not (yet) able to succeed in the highly competitive NEU-RON JTC and that e.g. a special module should be added for them for separate review and higher funding chances. The study falsifies this hypothesis indicating that the transnational funding scheme from ERA-NET NEURON is a relevant source of funding for young researchers at the early stages of their careers. In order to obtain more data, the study will be extended to other NEURON JTCs.
The ERA-NET NEURON then performed a second monitoring study to explore the position of early-career scientists in the 2010-2011 ERA-NET NEURON joint transnational calls “Mental Disorders” and "Cerebrovascular Diseases". Based on the study, again no indication of a bias toward older researchers was observed. This indicates the transnational funding scheme from ERA-NET NEURON is a relevant source of funding for early-career researchers at the early stages of their careers. The report was published on the NEURON web site (http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/588.php).

The Mid-Term symposium and networking event of JTC 2013 (Mental Disorders, Helsinki, Septem-ber 2015) was a very successful pilot. Intended was the support of ECS by the improvement of net-working opportunities among the funded research consortia. The mid-term of running projects appeared as the ideal time point to promote interaction and exchange. Travel stipends to attend the one day symposium were awarded to 24 ECS. 24 posters were presented and one poster prize awarded.

Monitoring activities
The NEURON consortium decided that in a complex structure like this large ERA-Net two types of ac-tivities have to be monitored: the general network performance on the one hand, and the results of the Joint Transnational Calls on the other hand. For both types, several measures were taken to continue monitoring like e.g. internal Workshops in May 2012, ‘Common Indicators’, final agreement on indicators and September 2012, ‘Self-monitoring questionnaire’, agreement on the self-monitoring process. Furthermore, status symposia were regularly held. At the seven Mid-Term and Final symposia to monitor the progress of the NEURON-funded projects in total 73 speakers presented their results.

The impact and final outcome of the first NEURON Call ‘JTC 2008: Neurodegeneration’ was summa-rized in a report and published on the web site:
http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/_media/JTC2008_call_output_report_2014_12_01_FINAL.pdf
For feedback from the neuroscience community and stakeholders on NEURON II activities, a question-naire was developed to gather external views on NEURON II work in conjunction with questionnaire on research priorities from task 2.2. The questionnaire was sent to external stakeholders: 1674 research-ers that submitted to the NEURON calls (coordinators and partners; both funded and non-funded); 188 PRP members (potential and invited) = 1862 total invitations. The analysis of the responses was used as input for the monitoring reports on NEURON II activities and to gather recommendations for contin-uous improvement of practices.
Conclusion: The neuroscience community was globally satisfied: the procedures are easier than those in FP7, the transnational dimension of this funding initiative is important for the research community, this initiative is highly appreciated. The reviewers appreciated the evaluation experience.

The impact and final outcome of the NEURON Call ‘JTC2009 ‘Technology Development’’ was summa-rized in a report and published on the web site: http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/_media/JTC2009_Impact-Report_final.pdf.

Feedback from professional and patient organisations Strategic Research Agenda Part II:
NEURON launched a survey to seek feedback about the SRA from the scientific community. A ques-tionnaire asked professional societies and patient organisations originating from all NEURON part-ner countries about their satisfaction with the SRA topics and priorities. Results are available at http://www.neuron-eranet.org/en/390.php
Conclusion: The neuroscience community was globally satisfied: the procedures are easier than those in FP7, the transnational dimension of this funding initiative is important for the research community, this initiative is highly appreciated.
However, there are some points to be improved: funding amounts, country-specific restrictions (i.e. eli-gibility rules), time between call launch and submission deadline, evaluation feedback, communica-tion/dissemination/information (especially about calls and meetings)

Strategic framework for cooperation
During NEURON II run time partners expressed their wish to continue launching JTCs and considered this activity as one of the core elements of NEURON II. While NEURON partners were highly motivated and determined to continue cooperation, preferably in the same format as the current ERA-NET, it became obvious that maintenance of an efficient management structure would hardly be possible without further financial support by the European Commission. Consequently, based on the successful cooperation during the previous years the NEURON partners decided to submit a proposal to the H2020 ERA-Net Cofund call under Societal Challenge 1, topic HCO – 11 – 2015 “ERA-NET Collaboration and alignment of national programmes and activities in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system”. The application was invited for grant agreement negotiations and the contract signed in September 2015. NEURON Cofund comprises a run time from January 1st, 2016 to December 31, 2020.

Collaboration with other initiatives
▪ Close contacts exist to the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), since a number of NEURON II partners at the same time represent their countries in the JPND Management Board and regularly attend the JPND meetings. Thus, information flow and complementary rather than duplicating approaches are secured.
▪ European Brain Council (EBC). A dialogue was started with European Brain Council about coop-eration of NEURON with EBC for the EC Year of the Brain 2014.
▪ Contacts were established to ROAMER which was a three-year EC FP7 project (2011 – 2014). The aim was to create a coordinated road map for the promotion and integration of mental health and well-being research across Europe. PT-DLR was as observer invited to two workshops and one meeting of the Government and Funding Government and Funding Institution Council of the ROAMER consortium.

Dissemination activities
A number of dissemination activities were achieved during the reporting period increasing the visibility of NEURON II and contributing to the attraction of the network to new partners:
• Total of 11 Newsletters
• Production of three educational video clips on ‘Stroke’, ‘Schizophrenia’, and ‘Neuro-imaging’
• Flyer
• Poster to announce ‘Month of the Brain’ symposium Reykjavik, 2013.
• Public lectures at the ‘Neurodevelopment’ symposia, Reykjavik 2013, and at the ‘TBI’ work-shop, Bucharest, May 2015
• Installation and maintenance of a Facebook page
• Invited publication of articles (five): http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/390.php
• Invited conference talk during Month of the Brain (Dublin, 2013)
• Re-launch of the restructured NEURON webpage (2012)
• Reports on EPNA ceremonies (http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/493.php),
• workshops and symposia (http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/390.php) and
• Foresight reports (four; http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/353.php).
• Strategic Research Agenda http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/en/390.php

Project public web site
http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/

List of project meetings (15), dates and venues;
• January 17-18, 2012, organised by CNRS/Inserm, Paris, France. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) a ‘Neuroinflammation’ symposium in frame of the foresight process (WP2), a NSC/EB (WP1) and a CSC (WP3) meeting. The newly established SAB was invited.
• May 14-16, 2012, organised by PT-DLR, Loveno di Menaggio at Lake Como, Italy. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) Closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC, WP3) for the call 'Novel Methods', (2) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1) and (3) mid-term symposium of JTC 2010 'Mental Disorders' (WP6).
• September 19-21, 2012, organised by MINECO, Malaga, Spain. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) Peer Review Panel (PRP) meeting of the Joint Transnational Call (JTC2012, WP3) "Novel Methods and Approaches towards the Understanding of Brain Diseases", (2) closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC-2012 'Novel Methods', CSC-2013 'Mental Disorders'; WP3) and (3) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• January 8-10, 2013, organised by CSO-MOH, Ein Bokek at Dead Sea, Israel. The meeting comprised four parts: (1) final symposium of the NEURON-funded projects from the Joint Transnational Call for proposals (JTC) 2009 'New Technologies' (WP6), (2) the Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award (EPNA), award ceremony (WP4), (3) the closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC) for the JTC 2012 and 2013 (WP3) and (4) the general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• March-20/21, 2013, organised by PT-DLR Bonn, Germany: CSC meeting of the ERA-Net NEURON call on "European Research Projects on Mental Disorders", Reviewer selection and allocation.
• May 16-17, 2013, organised by Rannis, Reykjavik. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) The symposium 'Neurodevelopment and related disorders' (WP2) open to the public as NEU-RON contribution to the European Month of the Brain, (2) the closed meeting of the Call Steer-ing Committee (CSC) for the 2013 call 'Mental disorders' (WP3), and the (3) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1). The Scientific Advisory Board was invited.
• September 23-26, 2013, organised by NCBR, Warsaw, Poland. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) Peer Review Panel (PRP) meeting of the Joint Transnational Call (JTC2013, WP3) ‘Mental Disorders’, (2) closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC-2013 ‘Mental Disorders’, CSC-2014 ‘Neuroinflammation’; WP3) and (3) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• January 13-15, 2014, organised by FCT, Lisbon, Portugal. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) final symposium of the NEURON-funded projects from the JTC 2010 ‘Mental Disor-ders’ (WP6), (2) the closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC) for the JTC 2013 and 2014 (WP3), and (3) the general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• May 13-15, 2014, organised by PT-DLR, Bonn, Germany. The meeting comprised three parts: (1) Closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC, WP3) for the call ‘Neuroin-flammation’, (2) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1) and (3) the workshop ‘Synapto-pathies (WP2). The Scientific Advisory Board was invited.
• September 23-26, 2014, organised by MINECO, Malaga, Spain. The meeting comprised four parts: (1) Peer Review Panel (PRP) meeting of the Joint Transnational Call (JTC2014, WP3) ‘Neuroinflammation’, (2) closed meeting of the Call Steering Committee (CSC-2014 ‘Neuroin-flammation’, CSC-2015 ‘Neurodevelopmental Disorders; WP3), (3) workshop for a common vi-sion for sustainable cooperation, and (4) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• January 12-14, 2015, Vienna, Austria, organised by FWF. The meeting comprised four parts: 1) the final symposium of the NEURON-funded projects from the Joint Transnational Call for Proposals (JTC) 2011 ‘Cerebrovascular Diseases’, 2) the EPNA ceremony, 3), the closed meet-ing of the Call Steering Committee (CSC) for the JTCs 2014 and 2015 (please see CSC minutes), and 4), general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).
• March 24-25, 2015, Bonn, Germany, organised by DLR-PT. The meeting comprised the re-viewer Selection and Allocation NEURON JTC 2015 on ‘European Research Projects on Neu-rodevelopmental Disorders’.
• May 11-13, 2015, Romania, Bucharest, organised by UEFISCDI. The meeting comprised five parts: 1) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1), 2) symposium ‘External Insults to the Nervous System’ open to local students, 3) closed Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), 4) NEURON Partners and SAB, and 5), closed meetings of the Call Steering Committee (CSC) for the call ‘Neurodevelopmental Disorders’, and the call ‘Ethical, Legal, and Social As-pects (ELSA) of Neuroscience’. The Scientific Advisory Board was invited.
• June 17th, 2015, Bonn, Germany, organised by DLR-PT. The meeting comprised a working group meeting for WP7.
• September 15-18 2015, Helsinki, Finland, organised by AKA. The meeting comprised sev-eral parts: 1) Peer Review Panel (PRP) meeting of the Joint Transnational Call (JTC 2015) ‘Neurodevelopmental Disorders’, 2) Peer Review Panel (PRP) meeting of the Joint Transna-tional Call (JTC 2015) ‘ELSA of Neuroscience‘, 3) Closed meeting of the Call Steering Commit-tee (CSC-2015 ‘Neurodevelopmental disorders’, CSC-2015 ‘ELSA of Neuroscience’), 4) Poster session of Early Career Scientists, JTC 2013 ‘Mental Disorders’, 5 ) Mid-term symposium JTC 2013 ‘Mental Disorders’, and 6) general NEURON meeting (NSC/EB, WP1).

Potential Impact:
Impact on health theme
Understanding the brain and its diseases are among the most exciting research areas of the 21st century and in recent years there has been a growing societal awareness of the importance of disease-related neuroscience research. Disorders of the brain are major causes for impaired quality of life. Epi-demiological and health economic studies covering the territory of Europe show that out of a population of 466 million, in the year 2004, 127 million people suffered from a brain disorder. With increasing average life-expectancy of the population especially in highly industrialized countries this number will even rise.
Treatment of diseases of the brain and nervous system is in most cases only symptomatic and patients may live for many years suffering and requiring specialised care. In many cases care is provided out-side formal health services by family members and has a high impact on their lives.
Apart from the human suffering caused by brain disorders, there are enormous economic effects. The total cost of neurological and psychiatric diseases in Europe was estimated to 386 billion € in 2004. This includes direct cost, such as medical expenditures, and indirect costs resulting from loss of workdays and productivity. Among the many brain diseases, the group of mental disorders constitute about 230 billion € (dementia not considered). Taken together, neurological and psychiatric diseases cause 35% of the burden of all diseases in Europe (Andlin-Sobocki et al., 2005; Wittchen and Jacobi, 2005 )
While the high complexity of the brain and nervous system is a fascinating feature, it is at the same time the cause for our still insufficient understanding of their structure and function. Despite some progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of the various neurological and psychiatric disorders, research is far from being able to offer solutions how to conquer them, and the development of curative treatments or prevention strategies has not been very successful. On the other hand, novel research methods and approaches emerged during the past 10 years and there is hope that biomedical research using e.g. genetic, neuroimaging techniques or other methods and appropriate animal models will provide insights into the pathogenesis of these diseases and will eventually be translated to clinical application. Finding ways to prevent the diseases or strategies for early diagnoses will be among the most important research tasks. Thus, a concerted effort is needed to reach the long term goal of curing patients with disorders of the brain and nervous system and helping their relatives. Excellent and novel translational research approaches are necessary to improve the situation, from the basic understanding of disease mechanisms - to predictive, diagnostic and therapeutic studies - to rehabilitation measures.
Impact on European Research Area
The added value of collaboration among European researchers in the field of brain diseases was well recognised, and the European Commission had already taken important steps to address this issue:
• Brain research was one of the priorities of the Community’s 6th Framework Programme for re-search, technological development and demonstration activities, and continues to be a priority for action in the 7th Framework Programme.
• A road-map for mental health research in Europe was developed in the FP7 Work Programme 2011 to address a coordinated and comprehensive approach to promote and integrate research on the biological, epidemiological, social and public health aspects of mental health.
The ERA-NET NEURON II coordinated national programmes for disease-related neuroscience re-search in 24 participant funding organisations across 18 European Member States, Candidate and As-sociated countries, and Canada. By extending the collaboration beyond the European Research Area into North America the global dimension of brain research was reflected and added substantially to the effectiveness of the ERA-NET. NEURON partners committed considerable financial resources into funding transnational research projects.
Since 2008 research grants of more than 80 million euros were provided for multinational projects in various areas of research into brain function and its disorders. More than 300 research groups from Europe, Canada, and Israel pursued their research plans in 76 funded consortia. The output from these consortia in terms of enhanced knowledge and improved diagnostic measures and therapies is impres-sive.
ERA-NET NEURON II promoted strategic alignment of research across Europe through a number of actions on different levels:
• Joint Transnational Call (JTC) project level: e.g. creating common standards by strengthening data and material sharing efforts, creating links to existing patient registries and infrastructure;
• Cooperation level with other initiatives: established or intensified cooperation and created syn-ergies with e.g. European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), Joint Pro-gramming in Neurodegenerative Diseases (JPND), and other relevant initiatives;
• Funding body level: gaining intelligence and common perception of ERA-related needs and hurdles regarding e.g. quality assurance of peer review panels and evaluation processes, moni-toring of funded projects and the development of a strategic research agenda.
• National programme level: development and alignment of funding measures in a transnational context using dedicated budgets (‘fresh money’).
Impact on research community
Research into disease-related neurosciences gains enormously from interdisciplinary approaches and it is nowadays unimaginable that important questions of brain functioning or progress on preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic measures could be achieved without combination of methodology, skills and expertise from different disciplines. The successful translation of research results into clinical application or the development of drugs and other therapeutic or diagnostic products needs to be tackled in multidisciplinary collaboration, often involving industrial partners.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is even more successful when the best international research partners work together. There is, therefore, a large need for transnational projects as can be funded in the framework of an ERA-NET. Frequent discussions with the coordinators of the funded research consor-tia revealed that their collaboration was possible only because of the NEURON programme. The typi-cally broad approach of the NEURON Joint Transnational Calls (JTC) was especially valuable for some of them because they comprised also narrow research areas that are too small to justify dedicated na-tional funding programmes, e.g. Deep Brain Stimulation. In addition, the size of the consortia was well adapted to the researchers’ needs without requiring too much coordination effort. As a result, an excel-lent output from the funded consortia was recorded already after a relatively short project runtime. The joint efforts supporting small-scale transnational research consortia have been recognized as key in-strument to provide adequate funding to the neuroscience community.

One key element of interaction with the research community was the development of a Strategic Re-search Agenda (SRA). A group of scientists was invited to compose a research agenda as a framework for the future scientific and strategic focus of NEURON. Within the fields of neurological, psychiatric, sensory organ and peripheral nervous system disorders three main areas were addressed: (i) under-standing disease mechanisms, (ii) understanding disease progression, and (iii) interventions. Supporting collaborative transnational research approaches in those areas will contribute to significant improvement in understanding brain diseases thereby reducing the suffering of patients and lowering the burden for the national health care systems. This SRA will provide a framework for future investment and addresses how European research efforts across Europe and beyond can most effectively be har-nessed to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the brain and nervous system.
To promote a dialogue between researchers and patient organisations – another priority of NEURON II – the network launched a survey to seek feedback from professional societies and patient organisations about the SRA. A questionnaire containing multiple choice and open end questions was sent out to 52 professional societies and 184 patient organisations originating from all NEURON partner countries. The evaluated feedback was also published within NEURON’s website.

Main dissemination activities and Exploitation of results
For dissemination and exploitation of results, functions and tools of the already existing NEURON brand were utilized and further developed. Strategically, the dissemination of knowledge and achievements obtained by NEURON-funded projects is embedded among other measures for the visibility and outreach of the network.
The broader outreach and communications plan comprised three main areas:
(i) enhancement of NEURON’s visibility in the neuroscience community,
(ii) conveying the understanding of both the diseases (benefit for patients) and the research into disease (benefit for project funding and the public), and
(iii) engagement with key stakeholders to support future neuroscience research.
Each dissemination axis required means specifically tailored to the target audience. The consortium took advantage of its already existing tools and excellent reputation and developed new instruments that served to increase the impact.

List of Websites:
http://www.neuron-eranet.eu/

Related information

Contact

Marlies Dorlöchter, (Scientific officer)
Tel.: +49 228 3821 249
E-mail

Subjects

Life Sciences
Record Number: 188004 / Last updated on: 2016-08-18