Original Article

Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 189-201

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Translational research policies: disruptions and continuities in biomedical innovation systems in Austria, Finland and Germany

  • Etienne Vignola-GagnéAffiliated withCompetence Center Emerging Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISILife-Science-Governance research platform, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna Email author 
  • , Elina RantanenAffiliated withDepartment of Social Research, University of Helsinki
  • , Daniel LehnerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Institute for Advanced Studies
  • , Bärbel HüsingAffiliated withCompetence Center Emerging Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI


Increasing the rate of biomedical research that is relevant to clinical innovation has been an intensifying concern of the research community and of policy-makers. In response, some of these actors have recently promoted varied approaches they label as translational research (TR) and translational medicine. This movement started in the USA in the early 1990s, and has since evolved to encompass large and ambitious initiatives. Its advocates contend that the productivity of biomedical innovation systems can be bolstered by: (1) the extension of large-scale development collaborations; (2) the strengthening of clinical experimental platforms; (3) training and supporting dedicated human capital; (4) achieving higher collective coordination of research teams than was previously common practice. In this paper, we examine to which extent these objectives have been put into practice by communities of biomedical actors and policymakers, by characterizing current translational initiatives in three European countries—Austria, Finland and Germany. This research draws on an analysis of policy documents and 26 semi-structured interviews conducted with policy-makers and TR advocates from these countries. Traditions of science and technology policy-making in each country have made them differentially receptive to the TR movement. German biomedical actors have most fully put into practice TR propositions, while Finland has seen policy-level debate of the notions but little in the way of concrete implementation and Austria appears to be a middle case.


Translational research Translational medicine Innovation policy Genomics Clinician-scientists Pharmaceutical innovation crisis