IMI is hoping to bring together representatives of industry, small- and medium-sized businesses and academics -- but in doing so, it is alienating many universities in Europe. Mid-sized research institutes are also having a tough time.
Many scientists were initially pleased with the idea of the research initiative, especially about the possibility of working with pharmaceutical-industry colleagues on exciting and important projects. But it didn't take long for academics' disappointment to set in. Once the project started, many workers at the 155 initially participating universities had to learn the hard way that different rules applied to the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).
In October 2010, two major European university associations pulled the emergency brake. Both the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the European University Association (EUABE) -- who represent the interests of many of the European universities participating in the project -- have expressed harsh criticism of the EU research project. Many universities left during their initial IMI projects or said they would not consider participating in another.
"Progress can only be made when both partners can conduct research on equal footing and when they are contributing at the same level," says Angela Noble, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh and spokesperson for LERU.
The Criticism of Universities and Smaller Research Partners:
especially at the beginning, the funds provided to participating universities were too small. Many universities were forced to provide additional financing.
during the second phase of IMI, slight adjustments were made to the distribution of funds. But researchers still have to resort to tricks in order to obtain sufficient funding.
the question of how the results of an IMI project will be dealt with has yet to be truly resolved.
the pharmaceutical industry still has an overly dominant position in setting the research agenda.