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Prioritising funding and support for COVID-19 research across the UK

Working with partners across UK and Ireland, HSC R&D Division is leading, enabling and delivering world-class COVID-19 research, a key element of the UK Government’s overall response to the pandemic. Given the extraordinary pressures currently being faced by the health and care system, we must also ensure that we are making best use of the limited resources and capacity available to support research.

In the UK, a single process has been implemented that will allow the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) / Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) for England to draw on expert advice from across the UK to prioritise the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the challenges we face.

This process will cover funded studies, irrespective of whether they are funded by the public sector, industry or charities and also, in partnership with UKRI, studies that require funding. It aims to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the capacity of the health and care system to support research is not exceeded.

Those with research ideas seeking project funding should also initially go through the portal. Projects assessed as offering work of real value will be triaged to the NIHR/MRC administered COVID-19 UK-wide research funding stream and asked to complete an appropriate application form.

Details of the process and the new single point of entry for prioritising COVID-19 studies are now published.

With regard to research approvals, researchers should make an application through the national prioritisation process first and will be signposted for expedited regulatory approvals so that approval review can progress in parallel to the system of assessment leading to a view from CMO/DCMO on prioritisation.

All HSC organisations and universities in NI are expected to prioritise support for studies which have been nationally prioritised. See the live list of these studies. Organisations may support COVID-19 research activity only when this does not impact on the system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support nationally prioritised research. Organisations will be expected to pause any local studies that impede ability to contribute to national research efforts.

Alongside the UK process, HSC R&D Division are also working with partners in Ireland, to consider the opportunities for important all-Island research.