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Covid-19 funder updates: European research agencies

How schemes from the Europe’s major funders are affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Research Professional News has collected information from major European funders on how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting their scheduled grant schemes. All information should be treated as being subject to change but was correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of going to press.

In this section we summarise the positions of:

  • European Commission
  • European Research Council
  • EMBO
  • German Research Foundation
  • National Research Agency (France)
  • Dutch Research Council
  • Swedish Research Council
  • Research Council of Norway
  • Danish Research Foundation
  • Health Research Board (Ireland)
  • Italian and Spanish funders

1. European funders

European Commission

All Horizon 2020 calls under Societal Challenge 1 (Health section) have been extended by two months to allow medical professionals to focus on the pandemic, and all calls with deadlines before 15 April have been extended by a week. Any additional postponed call deadlines are being published on a dedicated Covid-19 page on the Commission’s funding and tenders portal, and EU sources told Research Professional News on 26 March that all calls closing before the end of June are being assessed for the need to extend their deadlines.

For researchers already holding Horizon 2020 grants, the Commission has announced a number of measures to help researchers adapt to the crisis, including the possibility of extending projects by at least six months, delaying project start dates, and offering “full flexibility” on dates for deliverables, milestones and reports impacted by the crisis. Researchers can also request to change an existing project to re-focus on the coronavirus epidemic.

European Research Council

No calls from the European Research Council have yet been postponed and the Council told Research Professional News on 30 March that “the intention is to maintain all planned calls and funding schemes” so there is the “minimum disruption possible”. But the ERC advised potential applicants to keep up to date via the funder’s website and social media, as well as the Horizon 2020 funding and tenders portal and national contact points, since potential delays to calls “will be discussed and decided closer to the date of each deadline.” Currently, the only open call is for proof of concept grants with a deadline of 23 April.


All EMBO funding programmes remain up and running with no changes to call deadlines. The funder has arranged for all interviews for postdoctoral fellowships to be carried out by video conference, and EMBO is delaying the start dates of any new short-term and core facility fellowships until July “at the earliest” as Maria Leptin, director of EMBO, told Research Professional News on 30 March. For current holders of long-term fellowships EMBO has granted a two-month extension “to help them cushion the impact of lab closures and delays on their careers”. Leptin also says: “we acknowledge that the extension may only be a small relief in view of the unpredictable duration of the Covid-19 pandemic,” but EMBO is in a good position to make decisions rapidly.

2. National funders

German Research Foundation (DFG)

The DFG announced on 25 March that it was extending deadlines for several open calls for proposals and that “further deadline extensions will be introduced if necessary”. Researchers are encouraged to check the details of individual calls for potential extensions. In a letter sent to holders of DFG fellowships on 20 March, the funder said researchers who were unable to continue with their work would continue to be paid for up to three months, while a letter sent on 17 March to all funding recipients offered flexibility on reporting and budget re-allocation.

National Research Agency (ANR)

France’s national funder has pushed back the submission date for full proposals to its main funding mechanism, the Generic Call for Proposals (AAPG), until 20 May. Further postponements are being listed on the ANR website, including three calls in the agency’s ‘Investments for the Future’ programmes whose deadlines are delayed until May or June. 

Dutch Research Council (NWO)

NWO has extended deadlines by a month for any calls with deadlines in the coming three months. Funding calls open to consortiums or with co-funding are frozen and will resume one month after national measures on coronavirus are lifted. For any calls whose initial deadline has already passed, NWO has postponed any interviews “for several months” and any deadlines for written interaction with applicants have been extended by a month. Existing grantholders are also able to delay their start dates and reporting deadlines by three months. The NWO measures apply until at least 28 April and are being reviewed on 6 April, at which point they may be extended, and the funder told Research Professional News on 30 March they are “doing everything possible to limit the negative consequences for all researchers who are looking to apply or who are currently working on a project”. 

Swedish Research Council

The Swedish Research Council has extended the application deadline for 12 calls that were due to close on 31 March by one week. No calls are being cancelled and the council is sticking with the existing timetable for evaluations, having moved to a digital review process. For existing grantholders, the Council is extending reporting deadlines by a month and is offering flexibility for projects delayed by Covid-19. Researchers can also repurpose up to one third of their funding for research related to the pandemic between now and 31 July. Sven Stafström, director general of the Swedish Research Council, said in a statement on 27 March that this measure avoids researchers spending time on writing or reviewing applications.

Research Council of Norway

Eight calls from the Research Council of Norway with deadlines on 6 May have been delayed for two weeks, while one joint call for large-scale interdisciplinary projects has been postponed until 2021. Researchers who received funding for projects in December 2019 and January 2020 will not be able to submit new proposals in order to reduce the numbers of grant applications the Council receives. The Council told Research Professional News on 30 March it was being “as flexible as possible” for existing grantholders, allowing projects to be postponed if necessary, but a notice online warns that it may consider terminating projects if they cannot be carried out.

Danish Research Foundation

On 25 March, Denmark’s national funder said that all projects under three major funding streams—Sapere Aude, Research Project 1 and Research Project 2—would be extended for a year. While researchers do not need to apply for extensions, they must inform the Foundation.

Health Research Board (Ireland)

The HRB has pushed back deadlines on three open calls, delayed the launch of two calls due to open in April and May, and deferred a large call on clinical trial networks until further notice. A spokesperson for the HRB told Research Professional News on 30 March that they are “trying to keep things as normal as possible, so we are in constant contact with our community to assess if we can continue to progress other awards via online panels.”

Along with the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland, neither of which have yet delayed any funding calls, the HRB published a joint statement on 13 March saying decisions on the winners of larger calls may be delayed. The three funding bodies also acknowledged that funded projects may be unavoidably delayed and said requests for no-cost extensions, budget reallocations and project re-structuring would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. HRB also told RPN they would consider costed extensions “in exceptional circumstances”.

Italy and Spain

National funders in Italy and Spain were approached for information on measures being taken due to Covid-19 but had not responded by the time this article was published. On 12 March, Italian research minister Gaetano Manfredi told Research Professional News that all funding deadlines in Italy “will be postponed until the end of the emergency” and that Italian researchers currently holding grants will be able to extend the timeline of their projects.