University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey has welcomed funding announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, for researchers affected by COVID-19.
Minister Harris announced this Monday that €47 million will be provided to support contract researchers and research students whose work has been seriously disrupted by the pandemic.
Of this, UL has been awarded more than €3.7 million. Professor Mey said: “This morning Minister Harris announced the availability of €47 million to assist in the provision of costed extensions to research activities that are at high risk of delays incurred because of COVID-19.
“The purpose of the allocation is to support contract researchers and research students who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, each HEI applied to the HEA for a portion of this funding and I am delighted to report that UL has been awarded €3,757,422.
“We are working with the other HEIs to have a sectoral approach to the disbursement of the funding. The Research office has formed a cross University working group to oversee the disbursement and we expect to be able to soon issue details on the process of applying for the funding.
“We welcome this additional finance at UL, which reflects the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the research community and the recognition of that impact by the Government,” added Professor Mey.
The funding was secured by the Minister as part of the €168 million package for further and higher education in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to all our lives. Now more than ever, we need research, innovation and ingenuity.
“The funding will help to protect both people and projects at a critical moment for Ireland’s national research system as we look towards the next national research and innovation strategy.
“COVID-19 has caused major disruption to Irish higher education institutions. Basic and applied research, alongside teaching & learning, and engagement, have all been impacted. Some research activities have been paused over recent months, where laboratories have been closed, or access to archives, engagement with focus groups, etc, have been curtailed,” he added.
Knowledge Transfer Ireland’s latest Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey (2019) confirmed the positive impact on society and the economy of research and innovation work carried out in the sector, including in the fight against COVID-19.
Because of its importance, the funding of €47 million will be provided to the higher education institutions by the Higher Education Authority to support contract researchers and research students whose work has been seriously disrupted by the pandemic.
Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive Officer of the HEA, noted: “I am delighted that the HEA, with the support of Minister Harris and the government, is able to protect Ireland’s research, development and innovation sector at this time.
“Our HEIs continue to play a pivotal role in world-class research providing access to the best talent, research and technology in a collaborative RD&I environment.
“This capacity has been built over a number of years by our HEIs, the HEA, and research funders such as Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the Health Research Board (HRB), and the representative bodies IUA and THEA, with whom we’ve worked closely on this allocation process and I want to thank them for their support. I also wish to pay tribute to our research community who have worked hard over recent months to support national and international responses to the challenges of COVID-19.”
The Minister said that the institutions would prioritise researchers and research students in greatest need, for example, those researchers who are coming to the end of their contracts before the end of 2020.
There will also be an emphasis on continuing to pursue all other avenues for project completion, for example in the form of budget re-allocations. There will be engagement with the relevant funders to agree the extension of appropriate activities.
The Minister added that the funding will help to protect both people and projects at a critical moment for Ireland’s national research system as we look towards the next national research and innovation strategy (the successor to Innovation 2020) and the next European funding programme (Horizon Europe).