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Research and innovation

EU funding

Financing initiatives helping to tackle the outbreak of coronavirus.

Support for research and innovation

The European Union and its member states are working around the clock to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are mobilising all resources available to help member states coordinate their national responses.

EU leaders have agreed on a number of priorities to coordinate the EU's response to COVID-19

  • limiting the spread of the virus
  • ensuring the provision of medical equipment
  • boosting research for treatments and vaccines
  • supporting jobs, businesses and the economy

On 4 May 2020, the EU and its partners hosted an international pledging conference which has now raised €15.9 billion in pledges from donors worldwide to kick-start the global cooperation. This includes a pledge of €1.4 billion from the Commission of which €1 billion comes from Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020

The EU plays a central role is supporting and coordinating research on infectious diseases, with €4.1 billion invested from 2007 to 2019 through the 7th Framework Programme and Horizon 2020,  with further commitments in 2020 in addition to the €1 billion pledge for coronavirus research. This has included initiatives to coordinate European efforts to address antimicrobial resistance, as well as preparedness and emergency response to outbreaks (Ebola, Zika)

The table below gives a complete overview of all funding pledged and already mobilised under Horizon 2020 to contribute to the Coronavirus Global Response pledging marathon.

Coronavirus Global Response: Horizon 2020 pledge

Already mobilisedMillions
Societal Challenge 1 (Health) - First dedicated call (March 2020) for research & innovation to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines - 18 projects48.2
Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Public-Private Partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry72
Contribution to Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)  (EUR 50 million were mobilised + EUR 50 million in the final approval process)100
European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials (EDCTP)
Public-Private Partnership focusing on infectious diseases research in sub-Saharan Africa
European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
Health 2020 COVID-19 Rapid Response Call and  Extension for Headstart Call with focus on Digital Health solutions with a minimum TRL of 8 and direct impact on the current crisis
European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator pilot
Start-up companies and SMEs with relevant innovations had been alerted to the possibility of applying to the March bottom-up call for proposals. Additional budget of EUR 150 million (from internal redeployment) specifically allocated for the best COVID-19 related proposals

Societal Challenge 1 (Health) - Second call for Expression of Interests - complements earlier actions by strengthening capacity to manufacture and deploying readily available solutions, including understanding of the behavioural and socio-economic impacts – 24 projects

Reinforcement of InnovFin Infection Diseases Financial Facility (IDFF): EUR 75 million to CureVac; EUR 30 million credit enhancement via Horizon 2020 InnovFin financing mechanism to BioNTech  (which allowed the EIB to provide EUR 100 million loan through the EFSI), EUR 10 million to Scope Fluidics, EUR 24 million to Atriva, EUR 24.5 million to Immunic, EUR 15 million to AB Science, EUR 20 million to the AMR Action Fund, EUR 20 million to Bioversys and EUR 30 million to Univercells248.5
Societal Challenge 1 (Health) Extension activities COVID-19 related projects including clinical trials54.2
Infrastructure and Data sharing EU COVID-19 platform (extension activities and re-orientation of on-going grants) Public Health Information Research Infrastructure15.5
Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies - ICT
Support for the deployment of innovative robotics solutions in healthcare to the DIH-HERO project
Total mobilised872.18
Reinforcement of InnovFin Infection Diseases Financial Facility (IDFF)151.6
Total pledged151.6
Grand total

These figures were accurate at the time of publication – Last update 5 July 2021


Horizon 2020 calls for proposals

The annual work programmes of Horizon 2020, include topics on the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as on the preparedness of health care systems for outbreaks. For instance, the SC1 (Health) 2020 work programme – for which deadlines are postponed until 4 June 2020 – includes a topic on addressing low vaccine uptake.

Emergency funding was mobilised on 30 January 2020 and on 19 May 2020 for two special calls (“requests for expressions of interest”) for research projects.

First Horizon 2020 call for expression of interest (March 2020)

The first call aimed to advance the understanding of the novel coronavirus epidemic, contribute to more efficient clinical management of patients infected with the virus, as well as public health preparedness and response,  allowed 18 projects to be funded for a total of €48.5 million. The projects, which involve 151 research teams from across Europe and beyond, have started working on developing diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines, as well as improving preparedness and response.

Second Horizon 2020 call for expression of interest (August 2020)

The second call supported innovative and rapid health-related approaches to respond to COVID-19 and to deliver quick results for society for a higher level of preparedness of health systems.

This enabled some 23 new projects to be shortlisted for funding on 11 August 2020 for a total funding of €128.2 million. The 23 projects which involve 344 research teams from 39 countries in Europe and beyond, will work on

  • repurposing of manufacturing for vital medical supplies and equipment
  • medical technologies
  • digital tools and Artificial Intelligence analytics to improve surveillance and care
  • behavioural, social and economic impacts of the outbreak
  • pan-European cohorts;
  • collaboration of existing EU and international cohorts of relevance to COVID-19.

European Commission research projects on Coronavirus

Innovative Medicines Initiative

Research on infectious (as well as non-communicable) diseases is supported through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry through the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

On 3 March 2020, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) supported through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, launched a special fast-track call for the “Development of therape­­­utics and diagnostics combatting coronavirus infections” with an EU contribution of €45 million, which was subsequently increased to €72 million.

The pharmaceutical industry, IMI Associated Partners and other organisations will contribute an additional €45 million, bringing the total funding to €117 million. ­­­­On 12 May 2020, following the independent evaluation of proposals, it was announced that 8 projects were short-listed for funding. These projects involve researchers from 94 organisations across Europe, including universities, research organisations, companies, and public bodies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly well represented in the successful proposals, accounting for over 20 % of participants. The projects form part of the European Commission’s wider response to the coronavirus outbreak.

5 projects are on diagnostics and will develop devices that can be used anywhere and will deliver results very quickly, to help reduce risk of further spread.

3 projects are on therapies that address primarily the current COVID-19 outbreak, but also foresee efforts to prepare for future coronavirus outbreaks.

New IMI research projects on Coronavirus

EIC Accelerator Pilot

On 8 June 2020 the Commission awarded nearly €166 million, via the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot, to 36 companies set to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, 139 companies tackling the coronavirus that could not receive funding in this round due to budget limitations have received the newly introduced COVID-19 Seal of Excellence, in recognition of the value of their proposal and in order to help them attract support from other funding sources.

CureVac and BioNTech

The European Commission supports vaccine development and expansion of manufacturing for CureVac and BioNTech


State aid to accelerate research, testing and production of coronavirus relevant products

On 3 April 2020, the Commission extended the Temporary Framework to enable EU countries to deploy state aid in order to accelerate research, testing and production of coronavirus relevant products, to protect jobs and to further support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.