The European Commission will support 23 new research projects with €128 million in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The funding under Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme, is part of the Commission's €1.4 billion pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response initiative, launched by President Ursula von der Leyen in May 2020.
The 23 projects shortlisted for funding involve 347 research teams from 40 countries, including 34 participants from 16 countries outside of the EU. The funding will enable researchers to address the pandemic and its consequences by strengthening the industrial capacity to manufacture and deploy readily available solutions, develop medical technologies and digital tools, improve understanding of behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and to learn from large groups of patients (cohorts) across Europe. These research actions complement earlier efforts to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Emergency funding from Horizon 2020 will enable researchers to rapidly develop solutions with and for patients, care workers, hospitals, local communities and companies. The results will help them to better cope with and survive coronavirus infections. It's encouraging to see the research community mobilise so rapidly and strongly.”
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added: "The excellent response to this call shows the wealth of new ideas to tackle coronavirus, including new digital health solutions. Digital solutions and technologies enabled us to stay connected and interact with each other during the confinement. They will also be an essential part of the long-term response to this virus and to increasing our resilience.”
The Commission is currently negotiating grant agreements with the selected beneficiaries. The new projects will cover:
Repurposing manufacturing for rapid production of vital medical supplies and equipment needed for testing, treatment and prevention – for instance using injection moulding and additive manufacturing (3-D printing), adaptive production and supply chain methods, and repurposing manufacturing as a service network for fast reaction.
Developing medical technologies and digital tools to improve detection, surveillance and patients' care – for example through the development of new devices for faster, cheaper and easier diagnosis (including remotely) plus new technologies to protect healthcare workers.
Analysing behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the responses of government and public health systems, for instance on mental health, including gender-specific aspects in risk factors and the socioeconomic burden, to develop inclusive guidance for policymakers and health authorities and enhance preparedness for future similar events.
Learning from large groups of patients (cohorts) by connecting existing cohorts in the EU and beyond to assess their exposure to certain risk factors to better understand the possible causes of disease in order to improve responsiveness to the virus and future public health threats.
Enhancing collaboration of existing EU and international cohorts by networking research institutions that are collecting data on patient care to enable studies into patient's characteristics, risk factors, safety and effectiveness of treatments and potential strategies against coronavirus.
This second emergency request for expressions of interest, launched by the Commission on 19 May 2020 gave researchers just under 4 weeks to prepare collaborative research projects. The research community mobilised rapidly. Research proposals were fast-tracked through evaluation by independent experts, enabling the Commission to shortlist a number of projects of excellent scientific quality and high potential impact. Although funding is conditional on a final Commission decision and the signature of the Horizon 2020 Grant Agreement, the research teams can already start their work.
Many of the 23 short-listed projects have an international dimension beyond the EU and associated countries, with 34 organisations involved from 16 countries outside of the EU including countries associated to the Horizon 2020 programme (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey) and third countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Columbia, Congo, Gabon, India, Korea, South Africa and the United States).
This new special call under Horizon 2020 complements earlier actions to support 18 projects with €48.2 million to develop diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and preparedness for epidemics, as well as the €117 million invested in 8 projects on diagnostics and treatments through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, and measures to support innovative ideas through the European Innovation Council. It implements Action 3 of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, a working document resulting from dialogues between the Commission and national institutions.