The National Ageing Research Centre to be located in the Basque Country
The centre will provide a space for dozens of renowned international scientists and will host activities ranging from basic cell research to the development of new techniques in healthcare provision
This decision recognises the leadership of the Basque Government in terms of the new health strategy aimed at the chronically ill
The Basque Country is to be the home of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre el Envejecimiento (National Ageing Research Centre - CNIE), following an announcement made by the Lehendakari, Patxi López, and the Minister for Science and Innovation, Cristina Garmendia. The CNIE will be a major scientific facility for basic and applied research and a centre of international excellence. The announcement marks the culmination of the negotiations that had been ongoing since January of this year between the Basque Government and the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
The decision recognises the leadership demonstrated by the Basque Government in terms of healthcare and technology, and also acknowledges the strong commitment of the Lehendakari, from within the Government, to generating knowledge and promoting and strengthening new models of healthcare that make it possible for people to enjoy active and healthy lifestyles as they age and, as far possible, to do so in the company of their families.
The Basque Country is set to face a very complicated demographic scenario, as it is one of the oldest societies in the world, and as a result the Government has been working to confront this problem from the moment it entered into office. Setting this major project in motion will have a very significant impact in the following areas:
-Basic research: One of the CNIE's areas of focus will be basic research into cellular ageing and the biological, genetic and environmental causes behind it. Internationally renowned scientists will participate in this research and will help make the CNIE a benchmark centre for scientific research in both Spain and throughout Europe.
-Clinical and socio-medical research: The centre will also focus on generating knowledge with regard to clinical trials, both in terms of ageing itself and the degenerative problems associated with old age and the healthcare provisions these require. To carry out these lines of research the CNIE will have the support of the science centres and healthcare units that are already operational in the Basque Country as part of the Department of Health's strategy for the chronically ill. These activities will make it possible to develop solutions that are more suitable from an epidemiological, public-health and healthcare perspective for tackling the issues of ageing and the social and medical services that the elderly require.
-Innovation in diagnosis and care: The work of the CNIE will also be linked to that of other centres dedicated to innovation and technology, for the purposes of developing new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in these areas and designing new models of healthcare that apply the latest developments in ICT's and electronics in order to improve levels of care for elderly and/or dependent people.
The Basque Country already boasts a number of high-profile companies and organisations that are active in this field and they will soon be joined by the Centre for Socio-Medical Innovation, a project that is being finalised by the Lehendakaritza and the Social Affairs and Health departments in collaboration with an important group of Basque companies.
The basic and applied research carried out at the CNIE will therefore help to identify new policies for our society. It will not simply be a scientific centre in the classic sense: the CNIE will also provide new strategies and welfare models that institutions within its sphere of influence can apply in a hospital and socio-medical context.
The latest report issued by the United Nations stated that our society, together with that of Japan, is set to become the oldest in the world, and we are already seeing some of the implications of these demographic changes. However, the political decisions being taken at present will also have an impact, given that "demographics are not destiny". The Basque Government is rising to the challenge and is developing a comprehensive policy that will explore all the areas related to ageing. Moreover, the CNIE will have a role to play in identifying policies that are applicable not only in Spain but also in other countries, given that the centre has an international outlook and will provide a base for scientists from all over the world.
The Basque Government has assumed a leading role within Spain in terms of reorganising the healthcare system in order to provide better care for the chronically ill. A centralised service has already been set up to provide social and medical assistance over the telephone and new hospitals that are adapted to these needs are being built in Vitoria and Eibar. The Basque Government is also working closely with senior citizens' associations in order to involve them in the process and provide training in the importance of self-administered healthcare.
As stated by the Lehendakari and the Minister, choosing the Basque Country as the location for this new centre recognises the potential of the Basque health strategy to attract scientific, technological and industrial activity. The strategy is based on caring for the chronically ill and developing a socio-medical R&D and innovation system that is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, with the objective of creating a welfare model that treats the home as the focal point for healthcare provision, ensuring that the necessary technologies are provided and creating seamless interconnections between the different levels of healthcare, all the while focusing on maintaining the patient's quality of life.
Moreover, building this first national research centre in the Basque Country will mitigate the region's historical weakness in the biosciences and will help it become a European leader in an area in which opportunities to generate a new industrial community and produce highly qualified employees are growing. López and Garmendia emphasised the fact that, via this initiative, the Basque Country has the chance to become a worldwide benchmark for the development of policies, products and services orientated towards ensuring a healthy, active old age.