One of the important principles underpinning Europe’s research and development policies is that projects need to bring together scientists and researchers from across Europe to share knowledge and exchange ideas, with a view to upgrading standards of excellence across the EU.
To find out how this principle is applied in practice, I spoke to the distinguished Swiss Academic Professor Dr. Max Gassmann, the Chairman of the Institute of Veterinary Physiology Vetsuisse Faculty and Zurich Centre for Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP) at the University of Zürich. Professor Gassman has been involved in life sciences and European research and development projects since 1986.
I asked for his professional views about the current competition for the relocation of the European Medicines Agency when it moves from London following the UK’s departure from the EU on 29 March 2019.
Do you think that the Council’s decision on the choice of new host for the EMA will be made primarily on political grounds?
Difficult question. I do hope that the decision is made after carefully and objectively evaluating all the pros and cons of each candidate city. This is the most important consideration. But indeed, politics is one part of the equation.
How does Bratislava compare alongside some of the other applicant cities to host the EMA according to your experience?
All cities offer good possibilities. I am convinced, however, that a newer member of the EU must get the chance to show their potential. As such, Slovakia has not yet been awarded an EU Agency since joining the EU in 2004.
Prime Minister Fico has described Slovakia as a “a pro-European island in the Central and Eastern European region.” How important do you think Slovakia’s good EU credentials will be in supporting the case for the EMA to come to Bratislava?
Very important, as Bratislava is indeed in the heart of Europe, and the capital of a stable and very prosperous
country where industry is increasing fast and now science is following this route. Locating the Agency in Bratislava would be a sign that newer members of the EU are treated equally.
What could be the major advantages and benefits for the EMA if the Council chooses Bratislava as the new host city?
I am convinced that Bratislava will offer a welcoming environment for newcomers to settle down, in a very cost- effective manner.
What are the lifestyle and professional attractions of a city like Bratislava for international healthcare professionals?
It’s a delightful international city with a high quality of life, great history, excellent international food, fantastic art, creative people and it is located in the heart of Europe, easy to reach.
From your knowledge of the business environment in Slovakia, do you think there is enough home grown talent in healthcare, life sciences research and development for Slovakia to aspire to the challenge of hosting the EMA?
Yes, some are already in employment in Slovakia, younger scientists that would otherwise leave the country. Others are abroad and will come back home with the possibility to work for the EMA, or in related supplier and client businesses.
What would your advice be to any young scientists planning to choose Bratislava for their next career move?
Take the chance, as Slovakia overall and especially Bratislava is an up and coming country, with an open mind
for innovative ideas as well as space and available finance. There are great opportunities for those who do not think in boxes.
Are there sufficient scientists graduating from Slovakian universities to meet the future employment needs of life science and healthcare professionals in the country?
Yes, and they will stay or come back when realising the new and attractive possibilities offered by the country. I have been involved with Slovakian life sciences and research since 1996 when a Slovak doctoral student joined my laboratory; she was devoted to science, bright, innovative and highly motivated, so I have good experience of the professional abilities of Slovak scientists.
The EU will decide on the choice of city to host the European Medicines Agency by a secret vote at the meeting of the General Affairs Council on Monday 20th November, and the result will be announced at a Council Press Conference that afternoon.