Dr Peter Varnai is a Partner leading Technopolis Group’s Health & Life Sciences team. He has over 20 years of experience in research, education and consulting. He is passionate about linking research and innovation to policy and business.

Disaster waiting to happen

Human history is littered with pandemics. So, the latest one wasn’t entirely unexpected. Peter remembers he and his team were just preparing to evaluate a major research programme on epidemic preparedness and response, when news started trickling in from China that a new coronavirus was spreading at an alarming rate. “It emphasised the relevance and impetus for our work,” Peter says, “We had to provide evidence on assessing effective ways to prioritise and release research funding.”

Quick on our feet

“While scientists were preparing quietly for a global pandemic for decades”, Peter says, “policy and decision-makers were caught somewhat unprepared”. The European Commission charged Technopolis Group with conducting an urgent foresight exercise to understand how the situation might evolve. Peter and his colleagues illustrated plausible scenarios for Europe for the near future. “While these were not predictions exactly, the analysis provided a clearer understanding of risks and opportunities”, Peter explains.  “Our work can thus help decision-makers take strategic actions for our future health and wealth.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, some of the health team’s previous work has also taken on new relevance.  In 2019, for instance, some of our experts conducted an early scoping study for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to draw up a content strategy for a new European Vaccine Information Portal. Following the COVID outbreak, the ECDC has turned to our experts to develop case studies on countering online misinformation about vaccines, which is proving a significant hurdle in the EU’s COVID response strategy.

Passionate experts

Technopolis Group is fortunate to have a group of people that are truly passionate about health policy. They don’t just have the knowledge needed to run their current projects but keep abreast of the latest developments in their fields for future work. This broad and deep expertise allows them to react quickly and effectively, even when faced with an unprecedented global health crisis. Our health team always ensures that our support to policymakers is timely, evidence-based and independent. This allows us to truly make a difference. 

Research and innovation in health and life sciences can improve the health and well-being of people everywhere and at all ages. “Much of the health team’s work supports decision-makers in leveraging the latest health research and insights,” Peter says. In ‘normal’ times, our work contributes to better decisions on health research programmes, infrastructures and systems. We also link health and life sciences research with Technopolis Group’s other areas of expertise. For example, we recently conducted impact assessments of the European Partnership for Innovative Health and the EU-Africa Global Health Partnership for the European Commission. This lay the groundwork for diverse actors and organisations to cooperate under the new Horizon Europe research programme. The possibility to collaborate with colleagues across thematic fields provides us with a know-how that is quite unique and very valuable, to our core topics as well as theirs.

While scientists were preparing quietly for a global pandemic for decades, policy and decision-makers were caught somewhat unprepared.

Peter Varnai, Partner leading Health & Life Sciences activities

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