The contribution of research funding

A recent report via the UKRI shared the important contribution of research funding made by UK researchers tackling the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

The report identifies a number of research milestones. In essence, the report concludes that research funding contributions on COVID-19 should not be underestimated.

In the final analysis, publicly funded research coordinated through the UKRI helped to shape government decision making. As a result this eased the impact of the pandemic and ultimately saved lives.

The projects covered medicine, engineering, social science and the arts. The report explains that decades of prior funding meant that UK research was well prepared in this unplanned emergency.

This was realised in the UK’s response regarding infrastructure, capacity and international cooperation. Ultimately the report notes that this needs to continue, and that without it ‘the UK risks being left significantly vulnerable to future pandemics and other shocks’.

Major milestones

The report findings identify the following milestones: -

  • The record-breaking speed leading to development of the Oxford, AstraZeneca vaccine in under a year. This was funded with taxpayers’ money and underpinned by years of prior UKRI-supported research on vaccines, including those for MERS.
  • The application of arthritis drug Dexamethasone as a treatment for COVID-19, which has saved the lives of more than a million people globally. It was made by British researchers funded by UKRI with the National Institute of Health Research.
  • The research modelling for schemes such as furlough and the gradual lifting of restrictions. These estimated to have saved up to 100,000 lives and prevented 300,000 hospital admissions.
  • Data on transmission and variants become vital tools to track and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • State-of-the-art technologies from UK research helped to revolutionize the way COVID-19 was identified, tracked and diagnosed. From the detection of COVID-19 in our sewers to the design of rapid tests.
  • NHS records were linked with demographic information, giving an unprecedented insight into the spread and unequal impacts of the disease across the UK. This work, spearheaded by UKRI funding, was vital in shaping public health policies and interventions.

Over the course of the pandemic UKRI funded around 1,200 awards with a value of more than half a billion pounds.

This investment represented value for money for the taxpayer, according to the independent report findings. It's clear the contribution of research funding towards tackling COVID-19 led a significant positive impact on everyone's health outcomes.