With an ageing population worldwide and an increasing need for orthopaedic, dental and cardiovascular implants, medical biomaterials have become more in demand. The EU-funded project 'Creating international cooperation teams of excellence in the field of emerging biomaterial surface research' (Incomat) aimed to increase networking with the Western Balkans and Newly Independent States in this field. It looked at building teams of excellence involving experts from the EU, United States and third countries targeted in the project. Incomat therefore gathered 15 project partners hailing mostly from research institutes in 10 countries, who together revealed the hidden potential of third countries in the biomaterial and health sector. An important observation that has emerged from the project is the weak link between research and industry. Several countries covered by the project have formidable research institutes but no real mechanism for their industry to exploit the research. Moreover, medical device companies in these countries are generally linked to foreign companies and do not exploit these countries' research results or facilities. This model is very different to Western Europe and the EU where research is always associated with the involvement of industry. In short, the untapped potential of all the research facilities, studies and expertise in medical biomaterials can benefit industry and encourage rapid advances in the field. If the EU assists in bridging the gap between research and industry in nearby third world countries, it will create a win-win situation not only for the continent but for its eastern neighbours as well.
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