On the day that Russia said a locally developed vaccine for Covid-19 had been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans, the European Commission announced that it will support 23 new research projects with 128 million euros in emergency funding. The money is part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme, part of the Commission’s 1.4 billion euros pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative, launched by President Ursula von der Leyen in May.
This second batch of emergency request for expressions of interest, launched by the Commission in May, gave researchers just under four weeks to prepare collaborative research projects. 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 work.
One of the selected projects, Co-Versatile, is being coordinated SZTAKI – the Institute for Computer Science and Control – in Hungary. Co-Versatile is developing adaptive and resilient production and supply chain methods and solutions for the urgent distribution of vital medical supplies and equipment.
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.
While Co-Versatile is the only one of the 23 projects based in the emerging Europe region, many others have an international dimension, with 34 organisations involved from 16 countries outside of the EU including countries associated to the Horizon 2020 programme, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel said that the 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,” she said.
Thierry Breton, commissioner for the 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 new Horizon 2020 funding complements earlier actions to support 18 projects with 48.2 million euros to develop diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and preparedness for epidemics, as well as the 117 million euros invested in eights projects on diagnostics and treatments through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, and measures to support innovative ideas through the European Innovation Council.
SZTAKI’s Co-Versatile is the first project based in emerging Europe to get Horizon 2020 support as part of the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative.
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