It's a great pleasure to welcome you all here today.
You don't need me telling you about the challenge of an ageing population. And the transition Europe is in.
You don't need me telling you about the severe economic and fiscal challenges we face. With every service at every level facing funding pressures.
And you don't need me reminding you of the great opportunity ahead: if we can offer the people of the EU an extra 2 years of healthy life, better affordable care, more business
I know this audience already knows these things, all too well. Because I know you're the ones doing something about it in the real world and you have taught me what I know.
We're early on in our European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. But we are already seeing fantastic results, thanks to you.
261 consortia have made commitments. To unite 3000 partners, and improve the lives of over 4 million people.
Already we're seeing ideas from innovative procurement for citizen centred living in Finland; to Smart Homes in the Netherlands; to Living Labs in Italy. And I'm really looking forward to seeing the Action Plans of all the groups that have, over recent months, worked so intensively.
Plus I know you're discussing this afternoon the "reference sites". If done right, these can be a great way to show what new innovations mean in practice: clearly and tangibly. And if we really focus on sharpening them up, and giving a convincing account of added value, we can jointly create the dynamics for a real paradigm change.
But beyond the projects, the commitments and the sites: the most amazing thing is the unity of purpose among you.
There's a common desire - between all of those groups, all those sites, from every country and every corner of the EU – a desire to deliver for your citizens.
Because we all need the same thing. To improve people's lives. And we can't do this simply by throwing money at the problem, not in the current climate. Nor by simply cutting budgets. Nor by just taking what we already do, and adding in a couple of fancy gadgets.
Rather, we need to use smart innovations to re-engineer and reinvent our whole health and social care system.
We'll do that better if we learn from each other. We'll do it better if we work together. We'll do it better if we build economies of scale and critical mass.
And that's what you're doing.
I'm delighted that the EU can support you in this process. By providing, not another funding programme, but a forum for ideas, innovation and concrete projects.
A platform where you can work together, learn together, share and build together. A partnership so you can hear about each other's successes and failures and tell your own stories. Because, if we deliver this transformation, the money you'll save will be worth more than any EU funding. Savings of 5% in the age-related healthcare budget in the EU is the equivalent of over 60 billion EUR.
At the Commission I have very much enjoyed the positive cooperation with my colleagues, especially John Dalli. This has been a truly multi-disciplinary effort from the start.
And, irrespective of who is sitting in the seat, that good work will continue. The objective is too important, the political imperative too overwhelming, the momentum to this process too great, for us to do otherwise.
So we will continue to support you.
Through research and innovation programmes; through Ambient Assisted Living Programmes now and in the future; and through using regional development funds appropriately.
The eHealth Action Plan, due before the end of this year, will also help knock down more of the barriers you face to innovation success. Dealing with issues like interoperability, research, and international cooperation.
But really, the hard work and the real innovations are coming from you. All of you.
To those of you taking part in action groups – my compliments. You are about to present plans in which you've invested serious hard work.
To those supporting in other ways: I hope you can continue to do so, with ever more involvement and ever more enthusiasm.
And to those merely watching proceedings: I hope you are seeing all the evidence you need; clear evidence that this is an investment no government can afford not to make.
And to all of you, I hope you will continue to work together constructively and cooperatively. Working together on common challenges to find common solutions.
So, I hope you will enjoy your visit to Brussels. But today, I want to give you a souvenir to take home.
It's this message. We have given you the platform to work together. But the actions and innovations need to come from "on the ground". From you.
So most of all, we now need to see not just the new ideas, but to see them deployed. With real results for real people. A real evidence base to prove what most of us already suspect: that we can transform health and social care. So that these changes benefit not just 4 million people, but 500 million.
That's what I want to se. And sooner rather than later. Because the time for change is now; this issue won't go away, it will merely get more and more expensive to deal with. And that's a message I hope you can all take home.
From the EU we will continue to champion and support. But now it's over to you. Good luck.