Projects include studies that relate to meat-processing plants, nursing home design, PPE risk assessment, remote teaching technologies, assessment of patient risk factors, co-morbidities, long-term impacts of infection and novel therapeutic approaches

13 December 2020: Ministers today announced details of new investment of €10.5 million in 39 COVID-19 research and innovation projects.  Nine of the research projects will be undertaken as part of a collaborative all-Ireland research partnership supported by an additional £1.29 million from the Department for the Economy and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the awards Simon Harris, TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said:

“I’m delighted to announce this significant investment into furthering our understanding of COVID-19 and finding solutions to the challenges the pandemic has presented to our society and economy. As we move closer to commencing a vaccination programme, we need to understand that the virus has not gone away – supporting our expert researchers in our higher education institutions will help us to safely reopen our society.

“This latest research also includes nine all-island research projects, which is really exciting. COVID-19 does not know any borders. Working together across this island will help us in our fight.”

Nine all-Ireland research projects were supported in areas such as surveillance in wastewater, disruption to food supply chains and a collaboration to investigate potential therapeutics.

Commenting on the projects supported by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland, the Economy Minister, Diane Dodds, said:

“This virus knows no frontiers and it is vital that the world-class research strengths of Northern Ireland universities are fully harnessed to address the common challenges we are all now facing right across this island, north and south. Collaboration between researchers promotes innovative and impactful outcomes and this has been underlined by the way the global science community has come together to address the threats and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This SFI programme is very much part of this wider global effort and I welcome the opportunity it has provided for added-value collaboration across both our jurisdictions.”

Welcoming the investment, Stephen Donnelly, TD, Minister for Health, said:

“Research has been a key part of our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and we will continue to rely on research in the months ahead. This year, we have not just experienced a pandemic, we have also seen an infodemic. There has been an overload of often unreliable information. We have seen examples of this in relation to the use of vaccines and on unproven medicines. As we plan to introduce a COVID-19 vaccination programme, it is essential that we tackle things like misinformation. Many of these research projects will provide evidence to help us do that. I look forward to using the findings from this research for the benefit of Irish people, the health system and society.”

Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, Edwin Poots said:

“Collaboration with government funders from other regions and countries, can lever significant additional scientific expertise and research capacity for the benefit of all.   Tackling the impacts of COVID-19 has driven a global and collaborative response through research, and I am delighted that my Department is co-funding two projects with SFI to address issues that not only have a local and pressing impact but can also help inform the worldwide response to the pandemic.”

Commenting on the awards, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said:

“We have been faced with incredible challenges in our society and economy over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation programme was developed to ensure we could bring together the research expertise to provide solutions to the problems created by the pandemic. The programme has been delivered by a high level of interagency and higher education institutional collaboration both within Ireland and with Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement builds on the previous investment and will continue to support research projects that will generate solutions to the many challenges presented by the pandemic.”

The research projects are part of a coordinated COVID-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme with projects supported by Science Foundation Ireland, in partnership with the Department for the Economy and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, and the Irish Research Council and Health Research Board.

Examples of the 39 research projects announced include:

  • What leads to COVID-19 'superspreader' events in the workplace?
  • A disinfecting fog to prevent the spread of COVID-19 indoors
  • How can the built environment boost quality of life in long-term care during a pandemic?
  • Inoculating against COVID-19 misinformation
  • A three-pronged approach to tackling COVID-19 with antibodies
  • FoodShield: Helping Ireland’s AgriFood sector to bounce
  • Assessing and protecting the mental health of the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How can we support family carers during COVID-19?
  • Helping children adjust to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
  • Why are meat plants hotspots for COVID-19?

Commenting on the awards, Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said;

“COVID-19 has been a stark reminder of the importance of research to improve treatment, develop solutions to health problems and inform decision making. Many of these research projects address the long-term health and societal aspects of COVID-19 that will not be tackled with a vaccine alone, such as mental health or understanding patient risk factors. These long-term societal solutions are crucial as we continue to live with the virus and start to open society again.”

Research projects are led by higher education institutions and involve collaborations with a broad range of organisations including hospitals, Government agencies, representative bodies, and industry.

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, commented:

“COVID-19 has presented us with enormous challenges, locally and globally, the effects of which will be felt for many years to come. There is much we still need to understand about the origins, effects and wider impacts of the virus, and researchers across many different disciplines in Ireland stand ready to take up this challenge and develop important insights and innovations. The Irish Research Council is delighted to be supporting a second round of awards under the IRC-Health Research Board COVID-19 Partnership.  The national response overall has dedicated significant resources to harnessing our research and innovation system to meet the challenge and emerge stronger.”

Full list of approved projects and background summary information on project attached here.