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European Union to take action against COVID-19 with "ERAvsCorona" plan

During an informal videoconference on 7 April 2020, Ministers responsible for research and innovation supported the first 10 priority actions of the first ERAvsCorona Action Plan which resulted from dialogues between the Commission services and the national ministries.

The videoconference chaired by Blazenka Divjak, Minister of Research and Education of the Republic of Croatia was also attended by the EU Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, Mariya Gabriel.

"Research and innovation are providing the hope and scientific knowledge we need to combat the coronavirus. To have stronger impact, we need to cooperate even closer across the EU and beyond. I warmly welcome the support ministers gave to the first immediate 'ERAvsCorona' actions. They provide an excellent basis to coordinate, share information and research data, and to fund priority actions. Joining forces makes us stronger in tackling this virus", stated Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

"Reaching out to our researchers and innovators in the fight against the COVID-19 has never been more crucial in our lifetime. Today's discussions prove that we are all determined to coordinate our actions aimed at optimising the conditions in which our scientists work for our collective wellbeing", stated Blazenka Divjak, Minister of Science and Education of Croatia.

Ministers expressed support for a first set of 10 actions which can be implemented at EU level in very short time period.

Ministers also exchanged views on how EU research and innovation should respond to the medium and long-term effects of the crisis. They also discussed the important role of scientists in advising decision-makers.

The plan covers first short-term coordinated actions only. It sets out key measures the Commission services and the Member States are activating now to coordinate, share and jointly increase support for research & innovation, in line with the objectives and tools of the European Research Area (ERA). Coordination is also an important prerequisite for stepping up global cooperation, essential to tackle corona related issues.

This document has been prepared by DG Research and Innovation for communication purposes. The "ERAvsCorona" Action Plan is a services document and does not bind the Commission or Member States. It is without prejudice to any future action of the Commission in this area.

Ten priority actions for coordinated research and innovation have been defined:

1. Coordination of R&I funding against the Coronavirus

This action aims at giving national authorities a possibility to work closer and align activities through Programme level cooperation.

2. Extending and supporting large EU wide clinical trials for clinical management of Coronavirus patients

This actions aims at gathering additional funding to extend and support the implementation of large-scale, multi-centric clinical trials across Europe.

3. New funding for innovative and rapid health-related approaches to respond to coronavirus and deliver quick results relevant to society and a higher level of preparedness of health systems

This action aims at funding innovative approaches for researchers and innovators to deliver quick results relevant to society focussing on (1) Social and economic impacts of the outbreak response; (2) Medical technologies and ICT-applications; (3) Health systems preparedness (including manufacturing).

4. Increasing support to innovative companies

This action aims at increasing support to the recently closed Horizon 2020 European Innovation Council pilot Accelerator using the opportunity of the bottom-up call where more than 1000 coronavirus related applications have been received (out of a global number of around 4000) to support the best applications relating to the coronavirus.

It also aims at increasing support to Research & Innovation financial instruments addressing coronavirus related issues. This would assist with the increasing demand of financial support notably for rapid vaccines development and deployment/upscaling of good manufacturing practice production facilities of EU enterprises.

It also includes establishing a Coronavirus European Innovation Council Platform for matchmaking services with dedicated groups and matchmaking services for start-ups and SMEs to exchange ideas on coronavirus innovations and connect with investors, public procurers, corporations and others.

5. Creating opportunities for other funding sources to contribute to R&I actions on Coronavirus

This action aims at awarding Seals of Excellence for coronavirus relevant innovations by SMEs/start-ups evaluated as excellent, but not selected for funding under the European Innovation Council calls. It would also request consent of SMEs/start-ups to provide their contact details to Structural Fund managing authorities. Under this action, a favourable treatment of state aid to COVID19 Seals of Excellence applies. Additional funding sources, e.g. national/regional funding, private foundations, InvestEU etc. will be explored.

6. Establish a one-stop shop for Coronavirus R&I funding

An "ERA Corona platform" will provide complete overview of all ongoing R&I funding initiatives on the Coronavirus at https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/covid-19

7. Establish an ad-hoc High Level R&I Task Force on the Coronavirus

Without duplicating existing structures, such a new ad-hoc High Level R&I Task Force could advise on possible R&I actions of EU relevance on identified medium and long-term priorities and communicate about coordinated R&I actions to the general public.

8. Access to Research Infrastructures

The availability of the services provided by Research Infrastructures (analytical facilities, biological samples, reagents, pathogen labs, regulatory support, social science Research Infrastructures etc.) and of the data they hold (e.g. for the re-testing of raw data and assessing the societal effects and effectiveness of pandemic responses) is vital for researchers working on the coronavirus. New services (including High Performance Computing and Artificial Intelligence) and datasets are being brought on stream and it is important to match supply and demand across borders.

9. Research data sharing platform

This action aims to establish European data exchange platform for SARS-CoV-2 and coronavirus-related information exchange, connected to the European Open Science Cloud. This will allow quick sharing of research data and results to accelerate discovery. Researchers should be required to provide immediate and full open access and to share research outcomes (data, models, workflows, results) that are as FAIR as possible in real time.

10. Pan-EU Hackathon to mobilise European innovators and civil society

The Commission have given patronage to a pan-European Hackathon (#EUnitedvsVirus) which will be organised through a coalition with the organisers of the hackathons held in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

This Hackathon is expected to shorten the time to deployment of innovative solutions developed by start-ups and policy makers since innovators will be able to leverage the work already done by other innovators in Europe instead of starting from scratch or redoing the work done already by other innovators. It is also expected to provide information to hospitals and public administrations on the existing innovative solutions in other Member States. The planned date for the Hackathon is 24-26 April 2020.

Ministers stressed that the joint plan listing priority actions should be regularly updated in a co-creative manner between the Commission services and national administrations in the coming months. There was broad acknowledgment that the European Research Area should, based on recent lessons learned, strive to provide a faster response to similar future crises.

Finally, ministers welcomed the idea of synergies between all available EU programmes and funds and supported the need to attract considerable further investments in research and innovation across the EU.

"Research is key to understand and address the impact of this pandemic on our society and economy. Efforts at all levels must be first and foremost guided by the necessity to protect our citizens and preserve their quality of life", concluded Minister Blazenka Divjak.

European Union 2020