20 projects funded to address COVID-19 challenges

  • UK government invests £7.2 million in 20 new research projects to address the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s most vulnerable communities
  • projects include delivering mass vaccination capacity in Bangladesh, protective equipment for refugees in Jordan and remote healthcare access for patients in Nigeria
  • funding will help provide developing countries with technological solutions to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics

Bringing together scientists and researchers from across the world, 20 new projects will benefit from a share of £7.2 million of UK government funding to develop new technology and processes to address the challenges faced by some of the world’s most vulnerable people, such as refugees and children.

In partnership with some of the UK’s leading research institutions, these international projects include:

  • the University of Oxford will work with the University of Cape Town to develop a parental advice app for families affected by COVID-19 school closures across Africa
  • Birmingham City University will partner with Lusaka and Ndola Colleges of Nursing to help improve the clinical decision making of nurses in Zambia, helping to free up their time and prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed
  • the University of Sheffield will work with the UN Refugee Agency to make personal protective equipment with digital and 3D printing for Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, home to approximately 80,000 Syrian refugees, helping to protect those living in crowded conditions that are most vulnerable to the virus
  • the University of Edinburgh will work with the Open University of Tanzania to identify measures to make voting safer and more secure in African elections to promote social distancing and to slow the spread of coronavirus

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

“Defeating coronavirus is a truly global endeavour, which is why we’re backing Britain’s scientists and researchers to work with their international counterparts to find tech solutions to treat and combat this virus around the world.

The research projects we are backing today will ensure that we equip some of the most vulnerable communities with the resources they need to tackle COVID-19 and build their long-term resilience to respond to future pandemics, making us all safer.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, International Champion, UK Research and Innovation said:

COVID-19 is demonstrating how the world’s biggest problems transcend rich and poor countries. To find lasting, sustainable solutions to help us all during this current pandemic as well as to make us all more resilient for the future, we require global thinking, the mobilisation of global expertise and a global response. That is exactly what these new projects provide.

Working together, researchers in the UK and across the Global South will combine their knowledge and experience to develop innovative solutions to help empower local communities to overcome the wide-ranging challenges created by COVID-19.”

The £7.2 million UK government funding is delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

This exceptional joint response is the first time BEIS’ ODA research funds (the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund) have combined in this way – drawing on their respective strengths including GCRF’s ability to provide an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need, and the strong bilateral partnerships fostered through the Newton Fund.

Information about COVID-19: Our delivery partners have updated their websites with information about COVID-19 and its impact on Newton Fund and other funding programmes, including updates about new calls and guidance for projects already underway.

The funding follows the launch of the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap in July, which committed to boosting international collaboration in research and development and establishing global scientific partnerships that will create health, social and economic benefits across the world.

Notes to editors

Further details about the projects receiving funding as part of the Agile COVID-19 GCRF and Newton Fund call can be found on the UKRI website.

UKRI launched its Agile COVID-19 GCRF and Newton Fund in May 2020 to urgently understand the specific challenges faced by some of the world’s poorest people in the face of this pandemic. The call was closed on 31 July and projects will be carried out over the next 18 months. A second tranche of awards will be announced later this year.

The Global Challenges Research Fund is a £1.5 billion fund supporting cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries, and forms part of the UK government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. It harnesses the strengths of the UK’s world-leading researchers, enabling them to collaborate with experts in developing countries through equitable partnerships. The fund is managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support economic development and social welfare, tackle global challenges and develop talent and careers. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million up until 2021. The fund is managed by BEIS and delivered by UK and international partners.