18 Jun 2020   |   News

Commission changes Horizon work programme to reflect its global coronavirus R&D pledge

In the new work programme, the European Commission drops plan to spend €32.5M extra on Marie Curie fellowships for researchers travelling to work on international coronavirus projects

horizon 2020

The European Commission has published an updated work programme for the final year of Horizon 2020 to reflect changes proposed during a fundraising event held in May to boost global R&D efforts against the pandemic.

Back then, the commission said it would divert €675 million of Horizon 2020 funding into research on vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics against COVID-19. The move was part of its contribution to an international pledging event, which sought to raise €7.5 billion from around the world.

However, the updated work programme now says it will redeploy €641 million “not yet allocated” from Horizon 2020, along with “reflows” from financial instruments, and €1 million from the Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

The new figure is €33 million less than initially foreseen in May, because the commission has given up on plans to devote an additional €32.5 million to Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which was intended to finance the travel of researchers working on international COVID-19 projects.

In the end, the new work programme will see €400 million from Horizon 2020 in risk finance allocated through the European Investment Bank’s InnovFin programme for infectious diseases; €172 million for the expansion of ongoing COVID-19 research projects; €50 million in additional support for vaccines research done by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation; €15.5 million to set up a new research infrastructure to collect population health data from across the EU; and €3.5 million for the deployment of innovative robotics solutions in healthcare.

In addition, before revising the work programme, the commission had already boosted the budget for COVID-19 R&D coordinated by Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry. IMI is to receive €72 million to support research to develop treatments and diagnostics for COVID-19, instead of the €45 million initially planned.

In total, the EU is set to spend around €1 billion from Horizon 2020 on pandemic R&D. “The €1 billion in funding is already boosting efforts to find solutions to test, treat and prevent coronavirus for all,” said EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

The commission can increase the €641 million figure by 20 per cent if researchers submit a larger number of suitable proposals than foreseen.  

“Research and innovation [are] at the core of our coordinated response, and Horizon 2020 has proven its value as a flexible instrument to address this crisis,” Gabriel said.

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