Nearly €12m to be invested in Covid-related research across Ireland

14 Dec 2020

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A total of 39 research projects across the island of Ireland will receive funding to help tackle problems posed by the pandemic.

A Covid-19 response programme will see 39 research and innovation projects receive funding across the island of Ireland. This includes a €10.5m investment from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), plus £1.29m from the Department for the Economy and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.

The projects to receive funding include studies relating to transmission in meat-processing plants, nursing homes and workplaces, as well as PPE risk assessment, assessment of patient risk factors, and the development of remote teaching technologies.

Funding will be provided to researchers based at University College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said this investment will help further our understanding of Covid-19 and help find solutions to some of the challenges the pandemic has presented to society and the 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,” he added.

Nine of the funded projects will be undertaken as part of a collaborative all-Ireland research partnership, supported by the £1.29m from the Northern Ireland government.

Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds said that collaboration is important because Covid-19 “knows no frontiers”.

“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.”

Funding Covid research

The funding is part of the Covid-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme supported by SFI, which was launched in March of this year and has already seen millions of euro invested into research around the country.

Research projects are led by higher-education institutions and involve collaborations with hospitals, Government agencies, representative bodies and industry.

The project to receive the highest funding in this round (€1.2m) is led by Prof Grace Mulcahy at University College Dublin. It will look at understanding and preventing Covid-19 outbreaks in meat-processing plants.

Other projects include the development of an integrated system for the surveillance of Covid-19 in wastewater, led by Prof Wim Meijer of University College Dublin and Prof John McGrath of Queen’s University Belfast; and a study led by Dr Tofail Syed from University of Limerick examining the use of antiviral fabrics for masks and gowns.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI, said the Covid-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme was developed to bring together research expertise to help tackle problems created by Covid-19.

“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.”

Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic

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