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Next round of Covid-19 research funding worth €5.5m

Spate of projects gets under way to tackle pandemic in Ireland

Fresh investment from the Irish government’s Covid-19 rapid response research and innovation programme will see €5.5 million being shared across 41 research projects.

Announced on 24 September, the funding specifically supports research projects that contribute to our understanding of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to better diagnosis and treatments.

Simon Harris, minister for further and higher education, research, innovation and science, provided details of the various projects at the announcement. The funding will cover topics as wide-ranging as reducing the damage to skin caused by personal protective equipment used by frontline medical staff and developing ways to achieve early detection of second waves of Covid-19.

Research development and innovation would play a major role in tackling the pandemic, Harris said in a statement. The 41 projects were part of a “national drive” to find answers to the many questions the public has about the coronavirus, he said.

Ireland’s research efforts should help prepare people to live in the changing environment surrounding the pandemic, he said. It requires “new thinking and innovative approaches”, he said, congratulating those involved in the successful 41 projects.

The funding programme for Covid-19 research was set up earlier this year by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDAIreland, the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council to provide a strong national response to the pandemic and deliver important research on the coronavirus.

This is the fourth round of research funding paid out by the programme. The previous three rounds saw €8m going into 17 Covid-19 research projects. All projects accepted in the funding rounds were internationally peer-reviewed.

The money is going to higher education institutions including universities, technological universities and institutes of technology. The projects varied in topic but also value with some of the highest projects topping €300,000. There were many in the €200,000 to €250,000 range and also the €50,000 to €150,000 range.

The projects have challenging goals which, if they can be delivered, would provide a valuable response to the pandemic, the Irish government said. For example, one involved discovering ways to detect the virus using airborne surveillance.

Another project will look into using robot-assisted ultraviolet disinfection equipment. Also under study are self-disinfecting plastics that will prevent Covid-19 being transferred via surfaces.

The research programme was “critical” in supporting Ireland’s national action plan against coronavirus, said Mark Ferguson, head of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government. The research would play a central role in delivering the societal and economic solutions to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.