Funding urgent research into COVID-19 with UKRI

Between February and June 2020, the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation 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:

On 1 April 2020, we launched a joint rolling call for proposals for research into COVID-19.  Proposals were reviewed by an independent Rapid Response Panel which 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:

The rolling 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.

In June, the NIHR launched a Recovery and Learning call to better understand and manage the health and social care consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic beyond the acute phase, with outcomes typically expected within 24 months. The Recovery and Learning call has now closed. Projects funded from the two drawdowns of applications received will be contracted during August and September, with details published on the NIHR Funding and Awards website