Funding rapid research into COVID-19
The NIHR and UK Research and Innovation have co-funded rapid research to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funded projects are expected to lead to a benefit in UK, potentially international, public health within 12 months.
In February and March we held two funding rounds that invested £24.6 million into 27 research projects:
- COVID-19 vaccine and therapies research boosted by six new projects in £10.5 million rapid funding round
- £14.1 million funding announced for new COVID-19 research on treatments, vaccines and epidemiology
In April 2020, we launched a joint rolling funding call for proposals for research into COVID-19. Proposals were reviewed by an independent Rapid Response Panel that made funding recommendations to NIHR and UKRI. The panel was chaired by Prof David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, had over 20 members from across the four nations and was supported by a college of experts. Patient representatives sat on both the Panel and the college of experts.
In addition to determining whether research proposals would have an impact on public health within 12 months, the Rapid Response Panel used a number of other criteria when assessing research applications, including:
- alignment with priorities and research gaps in the World Health Organization R&D Roadmap
- need for rapid activation
- access to required resources
- applicant expertise and experience
- partnership, including strength and clarity of collaborations and opportunities provided
- design and feasibility of project plan
- value for money.
The rolling call also issued a number of highlight notices for research proposals on specific topics. The highlight notices were:
- COVID-19 and ethnicity
- COVID-19 virus transmission, risk factors and seroprevalence in priority groups
- COVID-19 and mental health.
New research funded by our rolling call - highlights
- £4 million data project to accelerate COVID-19 research
- £2 million funding boost for new research to tackle impact of COVID-19 on mental health
- £5 million for new research projects investigating how coronavirus spreads
- Unprecedented national effort by UK immunologists to search for answers on COVID-19
- Multimillion investment in new research projects to investigate higher COVID-19 risk among certain ethnic groups
- Major study into long-term health effects of COVID-19 launched in the UK
- New £1.3 million national research programme to evaluate coronavirus tests in hospitals, general practices and care homes
The NIHR-UKRI rapid response rolling funding call closed to new applications on 30 June 2020, because the nature of the questions that needed to be addressed had changed and funding for longer than 12 months was becoming increasingly necessary. The NIHR and UKRI continue to work closely together to monitor progress and disseminate learnings from our shared portfolio.