Responding to COVID-19
In 2020, the global research community came together in an unprecedented, and immensely collaborative and agile manner to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In supporting the Irish government’s response to the crisis, SFI rapidly developed a five-point plan which focused on providing immediate research funding; collating information and facilitating collaborative engagement and problem curation across many sectors.
Researchers in Ireland truly stepped up to ‘pull on the green jersey’ providing expertise from across the HEIs in areas such as contact tracing and manufacturing. They donated equipment and essential supplies, as well as providing staff and facilities for testing, modelling, and 3D printing. Despite the immense challenges, researchers still continued to publish excellent scientific papers and engage industry throughout 2020.
SFI in turn recognised the major challenges facing many research groups, extending deadlines and assembling international peer review panels in a matter of weeks to disseminate funding with rigorous standards of excellence. The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme was delivered by a high level of interagency and HEI collaboration, together with EI, IDA Ireland, the HRB and the IRC, with SFI investing €18 million in 83 projects via two funding calls, to provide innovative solutions across academia and industry.
Pictured right: Image by Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research at MTU and Head of MTU Blackrock Castle Observatory, from an SFI-funded, multidisciplinary project at CIT (now MTU), under the COVID-19 Rapid Response Call Programme
Key Statistics 2020
€18 millionwas invested in 83 projects throughout 2020.
€4.8 millionwas invested under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme to create a centre of excellence in the immunology of COVID-19.
9 awardsmade under an all-Ireland research partnership with two Northern Ireland government departments.
12partner organisations funded via a National Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium.
Societal and Economic Impact
Outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat plants in Ireland have presented a threat to workers and to our wider society. Research funded under the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and led by Prof Grace Mulcahy (UCD), aims to better understand why meat plants are vulnerable to the transmission of COVID-19, and how to decrease the risks.
Research led by Prof Wim Meijer (UCD) and Dr Niall O’Leary (UCC) will see an integrated system for all-island SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance established. A study led by UCD demonstrated that measuring the COVID-19 virus in wastewater in the Republic of Ireland can identify whether the virus is present and if the infection levels are going up or down.
Pictured right: Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government; Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, Prof Zena Moore and Prof Donal O’Shea at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.
COVID-19 Research Hub
€4.8 million was invested under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme, in collaboration with TCD and Allied Irish Bank (AIB), to create a centre of excellence in the immunology of COVID-19. Led by Prof Kingston Mills and Prof Aideen Long at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute (TTMI) at TCD, in collaboration with researchers at UL and UCD, the research aims to answer key questions, such as why are some people are more susceptible to COVID-19 than others.
They are developing quick and straightforward assays to detect current or previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 and studying the immune responses in different COVID-19 patient cohorts, including those with high/low risk of developing disease or those that have been vaccinated. This will provide key information for the design of more effective vaccines that confer long-term protection against infection, as well as therapeutics that control inflammation.
Pictured left: Prof Patricia Maguire, Director of UCD Institute for Discovery, with Dr Barry Kevane, Consultant Haematologist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, for the COCOON study, looking at COVID-19 coagulopathy and thrombosis: Novel prognostic and therapeutic opportunities.
Explore The Report - Our Key Chapters
- Excellent Science
- Talent and Skills
- Global Footprint
In 2020 SFI continued to foster and maintain our strong global connections with international funding agencies, as well as seeking new opportunities for international research collaborations.Find out more
- Driving Competitiveness
SFI supports and drives Ireland’s contribution to the latest scientific breakthroughs which lead to innovation for academia, enterprise, the public sector, society and beyond.Find out more about Excellent Science
Talent and Skills
SFI develops, attracts and retains diverse academic and research talent that powers Ireland’s innovation society.Find out more about Talent and Skills
In 2020 SFI continued to foster and maintain our strong global connections with international funding agencies, as well as seeking new opportunities for international research collaborations.Find out more about Global Footprint
Ireland is a competitive, innovative country with ambitions to become a global innovation leader.Find out more about Driving Competitiveness