IRIS-CC starts its activity with the aim of increasing research and innovation in health in central Catalonia

31 May 2022
Group photo of the project IRIS-CC participants

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Life Sciences and Health in Central Catalonia (IRIS-CC) is now a reality. On Tuesday, May 31, the Institute’s Board of Trustees met and on Wednesday, June 1, it began its activities. At the time of its constitution, more than 300 researchers have already expressed their willingness to join the Institute.

Initially promoted by the University of Vic – Central Univsersity of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), the institute is formed by 14 academic, health and social institutions of central Catalonia: the Fundació Privada Elisava Escola Universitària, Fundació Universitària Balmes, Fundació Universitària del Bages and Fundació d’Estudis Superiors en Ciències de la Salut (all four within the federative framework of UVic-UCC), Fundació Althaia, Institut Català de la Salut de la Catalunya Central, Consorci Hospitalari de Vic, the Hospital de la Santa Creu Foundation, Sant Andreu Salut Private Foundation, the Olot and Garrotxa Regional Hospital Foundation, the Osona Psychopedagogical Medical Center Private Foundation, the Campdevànol Hospital Private Foundation, the San Joan de Déu de Martorell Hospital Foundation and the Vic Primary Care Team, SLP (EBA Vic Sur). The UVic-UCC, through its four federated foundations, has taken on a role of bringing together all the members of the new institute.

The IRIS-CC project was approved by an agreement of the Government of the Generalitat on April 19. Subsequently, on May 6, the signing of the public deed of the founding Charter took place, as well as the constituent meeting of the Board of Trustees, chaired by the rector of the UVic-UCC, Josep Eladi Baños. The director of the Institute will be José Jerónimo Navas, who has assumed the responsibility of creating the institute from the beginning of the project. At the moment, it will have 6 people in its management structure. The research and innovation activities of the founding institutions start with an initial revenue budget of € 1.8 million.

The new biomedical and health research institute was created with the aim of generating scientific knowledge in the fields of life and health sciences. Initially, the lines of research of IRIS-CC coincide with those of the founding entities: biomedicine, clinical (mental health, oncology, digestive system and locomotor system), epidemiology and public health, aging-chronicity, cures, innovation (in products, health services, simulation and patient safety and teaching innovation), as well as cross-cutting themes such as physical activity and sports sciences, data management, design applied to health and well-being, and health-oriented social and human sciences.

A multicenter perspective, outside the metropolitan area of Barcelona

IRIS-CC is the eleventh biomedical, health and life sciences research and innovation institute in Catalonia. Its constitution balances the distribution of research in this field in the country and expands the opportunities that the area of central Catalonia can offer researchers, an area with a population of 525,000 inhabitants. One of the differential elements of this institute is that it not only integrates reference hospitals but also primary health care, social and health centers, mental health facilities and county hospitals. Accompanying research and innovation in health from plural perspectives (rural, urban, mountain) should contribute to the differentiation of this new institute in its analyses and proposals. The IRIS-CC should create knowledge in a multicentric way and, at the same time, attract, retain and train talent in the territorial environment of the different institutions that are part of it. The territorial commitment implies having operational and specialization units in the territorial headquarters of Vic and Manresa, with Can Baumann, as the headquarters of the Faculty of Medicine, and with the Althaia Foundation, respectively.

Under the umbrella of IRIS-CC, the resources, the scientific trajectory and the professionals dedicated to research of the 14 member institutions are pooled. As a starting point, in addition to the 300 researchers who have already expressed their willingness to join the institute, 14 research groups accredited by the Agency for the Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) will form part of the institute. This is a very relevant and unprecedented fact, because it generates a nucleus of top-level research activity beyond the metropolitan area of Barcelona and the rest of the country’s provincial capitals. Research and life sciences institutes are always born from the alliance between the university world and the health world. This is the model followed by the IRIS-CC, in the image of what is common in the European and international context.

Attracting and retaining talent

The existence of IRIS-CC should henceforth facilitate access to new sources of funding for research and innovation by the promoting entities. It is expected to generate new synergies between researchers in the region, to establish alliances with other centers of reference in Catalonia, Spain and internationally, and to attract and retain talent in the region. Likewise, the research staff will have access to cutting-edge research structures, some of them newly created, such as the Clinical Trials Unit (Hospital San Joan de Déu de Manresa), the Biobanc (Hospital Universitari de Vic) or data analysis systems. These resources should make it possible to open up new lines of highly specialized research in key areas for the future, such as protonomics, genomics and biostatistics.