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Research and innovation
News article10 March 2021Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

Coronavirus: EU support to innovators yields promising results one year on

In the past year, the Commission has invested €226 million through the European Innovation Council pilot and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology to support innovative start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and projects to develop solutions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing crisis. Many of these companies and projects have already generated promising results.

Companies such as ViruShield, from Germany, has developed a reusable, self-cleaning personal protective equipment that removes 95% of particles and droplets. Advitos, also from Germany, developed a blood purification therapy, which reduces the need for ventilator support and increases the survival rate of patients with a severe infection by up to 30%. RapCo-19, from Ireland, has developed an antibody platform to help identify the optimal antibodies to treat severe cases. The Danish company BluSense Diagnostics developed a nanotechnology-based blood test platform for diagnosis of infectious diseases that works with a single drop of blood within minutes. Other Danish entrepreneurs developed a new respiratory suctioning system that can cut healthcare costs, and an AI-based virtual management centre for hospitalised COVID-19 patients has demonstrated a 50% reduction in mortality rate.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said:

The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges that require innovative ideas. The rapid investments to innovative start-ups and projects through the European Innovation Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology have unlocked a range of breakthrough ideas to tackle the crisis and to speed up European and global recovery.

The support from the European Innovation Council pilot and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology is part of the Commission’s pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to affordable coronavirus vaccination, treatment and testing launched by President Ursula von der Leyen. The Commission has pledged €1.4 billion to the global call for action, of which €1 billion comes from Horizon 2020 to help develop vaccines, new treatments and diagnostic tools.

European Innovation Council

In mid-2020, the EU quickly allocated €166 million to 36 start-ups and SMEs through the European Innovation Council, for the development of innovative solutions to tackle the outbreak, including equity investments through the new European Innovation Council Fund (EIC Fund).

In addition, the European Innovation Council coordinated the #EUvsVirus Hackathon, which connected over 30,000 participants representing civil society, innovators, partners and investors across Europe resulting in 120 innovative solutions to coronavirus-related challenges. The winners were invited to a “Matchathon” in May 2020 to help mobilise financing from businesses, investors, accelerators, and venture capitalists and generated 2,235 new partnerships. A start-up from Hungary, Entremo, was among the winners of the #EUvsVirus Hackathon. It has developed a smart monitoring device that allows to monitor patients remotely.

The European Innovation Council in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) pledged additional financing of around €400 million to COVID-19 actions under the InnovFin Infectious Diseases Financial Facility. Nearly €200 million of this amount have already been mobilised.

European Institute for Innovation and Technology

The EU allocated €60 million to 62 innovative projects and 145 start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, through the Crisis Response Initiative of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. This investment was mobilised by Europe’s largest innovation network to tackle the unprecedented social and economic challenges that the pandemic created. It resulted in concrete support for innovators and ventures working in health, climate change, digitalisation, food, sustainable energy, urban mobility, manufacturing and raw materials.

Background

The Commission has been at the forefront of supporting research and innovation to fight the coronavirus outbreak and coordinating European and global research efforts, including preparedness for pandemics. It has pledged €1.4 billion in total, of which €1 billion comes from Horizon 2020 and is directed towards the development of vaccines, new treatments and diagnostic tools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. So far, over €818 million have been mobilised. These efforts build on several past and ongoing research actions related to coronaviruses and outbreaks that address epidemiology, preparedness and response to outbreaks, the development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, as well as the infrastructures and resources that enable this research.

As mentioned above the Commission also reinforced access to risk finance for InnovFin Infectious Diseases Financial Facility funded under Horizon 2020 and implemented by the European Investment Bank, with a pledge of €400 million. This enabled the European Investment Bank to support more key players developing innovative vaccines candidates, drugs, medical and diagnostic devices and novel critical research and innovation infrastructures, including production facilities. Notably, the European Investment Bank and BioNTech signed a €100 million financing agreement for the development and large-scale production of vaccines, which helped accelerate the development of the first coronavirus vaccine placed on the market. Furthermore, the European Investment Bank and CureVac signed a €75 million financing agreement to accelerate the development and large-scale production of the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate.

More information

Factsheet: EU support to innovators during the pandemic

European Innovation Council

European Institute of Innovation and Technology

European Commission support for coronavirus-related research and innovation

European Commission’s response to the coronavirus outbreak

Details

Publication date
10 March 2021
Author
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation