INTRODUCTION: The European Union is giving increasing emphasis to research as a driver for innovation and economic development. The European collaborative study PHIRE (Public Health Innovation and Research in Europe) investigated the funding and structures of public health research at national level in European countries.
METHODS: Background materials were prepared for national public health associations of European countries to hold workshops or discussions with research and policy stakeholders on their public health research systems. The reports, supplemented from internet sources for 23 EU countries (four did not contribute), provided information for framework analysis.
RESULTS: All countries have public funding and administrative structures for research, but structures for public health research are more varied. In most countries, competitive health research funding is controlled by the Ministry of Science, with little input from the Ministry of Health. In four countries, Ministries of Health provide competitive funding alongside Ministries of Science, and in two countries there is a single health research council. There is no comparative reporting of public health research funding, and little connection with European public health research programmes.
CONCLUSION: Europe needs a comprehensive picture of national and regional systems of public health research, in order to critically assess them and better adapt to changes and challenges, and to achieve a European Research Area for public health.