Mission & Objectives
Research into the human brain and its diseases is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. Among the many diseases affecting health, disorders of the brain are major causes for impaired quality of life and increasing health care costs. Despite some progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of various neurological and psychiatric disorders and sensory impairments, research is still far from being able to offer solutions to conquer them. In addition, the development of curative treatments or prevention strategies has not been, to date, very successful. A concerted effort of funding organisations and of research groups in this area, is thus needed to reach the long-term goal of curing patients with disorders of the brain and nervous system, and helping their relatives.
The ERA-NET NEURON Cofund2 is a funding platform focused on brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system and holds a strategic position in bringing pre-clinical and clinical research communities closer together and fostering translational research, while covering the entire value chain. Based on its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), NEURON pursues a unique funding programme addressing a variety of disorders, neurological, mental, and sensory organ-related.
Since 2008, ERA-NET NEURON Cofund was designed to pursue the vision of a European and international Brain Research Area through which the burden of brain diseases for patients and society can be considerably lowered. The means to address this vision is joint funding of excellent translational and clinical research into disorders of the brain and nervous system across national borders. The research area of NEURON Cofund2 covers the entire range of disorders of the brain and nervous system, except for neurodegenerative diseases. A strong focus lies on research into mental health and mental disorders. NEURON has become an international networking platform that so far attracted more than 4,600 PIs, who submitted joint applications to the respective translational/clinical and neuroethical calls for proposals. This unique role of the ERA-NE NEURON supports the development of a global Brain Research Area that is highly needed to accelerate progress in this field. Based on the successful work in the previous phases of NEURON, NEURON Cofund2 promotes with its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and its strategic partnerships and collaborations with a number of European and international organizations its role as a policy informing network and as an interface between the brain research community and policy makers.
The activities center around four strategic pillars:
Strategic pillar I:
by Joint Transnational Calls for proposals (JTCs) in the biomedical area and covering Ethical, Legal, Social Aspects (ELSA-JTC). In addition, NEURON will continue the tradition to support early career researchers (ECRs) with a variety of measures, e.g. by the longstanding Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award (EPNA). Since modern neuroscience is highly data-driven and integrative combining knowledge and expertise from several disciplines and from multiple different backgrounds NEURON Cofund2 will take account of these global megatrends by providing targeted support and carefully designed training to ECRs.
Strategic pillar II:
Promoting the global Brain Research Area
The European and international neuroscience research community benefits from dissemination of results, use of synergies, sharing of knowledge, methods, data and resources. Collaborative efforts are indispensable to solve the actual questions of such complexity as conquering the disorders of the brain and nervous system. Over a long experience of more than 15 years, NEURON holds a strategic position among the neuroscience research community and relevant funding organizations. It brings together pre-clinical and clinical research communities. NEURON Cofund2 is therefore particularly motivated to further promoting the desired interactions at a transnational level, towards a unified and global Brain Research Area.
Strategic pillar III:
Lowering the burden of brain and nervous system diseases for patients and society is among the overall aims of NEURON. It is thus important to cover the entire value chain from understanding disease pathology, improving diagnosis and developing therapy through to advancing prevention, health care and rehabilitation. The NEURON JTCs accept applications in this entire breadth. In order to further strengthen the clinical and application aspects, enabling activities are required to achieve highest possible quality and outreach.
Strategic pillar IV:
Integrating open science with the research society
Effective communication and dissemination to the general public and other stakeholders is a major item in NEURON’s portfolio. Activities comprise information and support of the research community in the implementation of future pre- and clinical research that is credible, contributory, communicable, and conforming. Also, NEURON strives to inform the wider societal relevance of neuroscience, strengthen the grounds for future research and innovation, and to bring research and its outcomes to the attention of non-scientific audiences, scientific peers, potential business partners or policy makers. Thereby Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is addressed as cross-cutting issue as well as Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) into the implementation of research.
The main objective of ERA-NET NEURON Cofund2 is to facilitate the close and sustainable network-ing and alignment of national and regional research programmes in the areas of brain diseases and mental health carried out in partner countries.
The implementation of joint transnational research funding activities is the most important instrument to achieve this aim. In this respect, top-up funding provided by the European Commission (EC) is used to scale up national support of research in the co-funded Joint Transnational Call (JTC) 2021 for proposals on neurodevelopmental disorders. Further JTCs (2022 – 2025) addressing other important topics in brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system will be launched without EC top-up funding to pursue NEURON’s objectives.
Further objectives encompass:
- Advance NEURON as a work platform for funding agencies and ministries in Europe and outside European geographic boundaries to streamline and align their national priorities and strategies through implementation of the goals described in the Strategic Research Agenda.
- Maintain the NEURON funding scheme as a reliable funding platform through JTCs in the field of disease-related neuroscience and in neuroethical research (Ethical, Legal, Societal Aspects (ELSA) of neuroscience).
- Strengthen translational and clinical approaches and application of results by engaging patients and encouraging the interaction of researchers and clinicians in all steps of the call design and proposal selection process and involve regulatory bodies and other stakeholders where appropriate. The goal is to design the JTCs in a way that spans the value chain from pre-clinical studies in animal models and humans to clinical trials, health care, rehabilitation studies and guidelines on ethical issues in neurosciences.
- Provide support for early-career researchers into an independent research career by creating an educational environment and providing training and networking opportunities.
- Tackle the strong need for sharing data and other resources and foster collaboration of research groups across NEURON JTCs.
- Address the need to improve the reproducibility of research results by offering training opportunities.
- Partner with pertinent initiatives in the area of brain research in Europe and beyond, develop collaboration strategies and take the necessary steps towards the envisaged European and global Brain Research Area.
- Reach out to and interact with relevant societal groups and disseminate knowledge about research into the brain and its diseases, research outcomes and the role of public funding.