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University of Limerick researchers awarded funding under COVID-19 rapid response call

Prof Alice Coffey & Prof Donal Fortune
Fri, 01 May 2020

Two research projects at University of Limerick are to be funded under the newly established national, coordinated research and innovation response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Donal Fortune and Professor Alice Coffey have had studies funded as part of the first 26 projects to receive €5 million funding in the initiative, which complements existing third-level research activity.

The projects will address key areas such as frontline healthcare, diagnostics, infection control, contact tracing, mental health, potential treatments, and management of the mitigation measures related to social distancing and isolation and were announced by government this Wednesday.

Alice Coffey, Professor of Nursing & Midwifery, and Lead of the Health Implementation Science Research Cluster at UL, was awarded €199,647 for her research: ‘A Rapid Resource Repository for Health Professionals (RRR-HP): An online and social media individualised support intervention for return to practice, reassigned and new to practice, nursing and allied’.

Donal Fortune, Professor of Clinical Psychology at UL, was awarded €175,013 for his research: ‘An investigation of psychological responses to COVID-19 in health care workers during the delay and mitigation phase of disease management: longitudinal and nested qualitative study’.

More than 350 applications were received, with 26 proving successful under the scheme, which was overseen by a coordinated Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme established by the Health Research Board (HRB), Irish Research Council (IRC), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

The research projects are part of a broader initiative by the Irish State to mitigate and manage the COVID-19 pandemic by unlocking the potential of Irish based researchers and innovators, and to complement similar work around the world. All of the projects were internationally peer reviewed at the assessment stage.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said: “Research, development and innovation will play a significant role in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects announced today are part of a national drive to find solutions to the challenges we face. Right across the country, our research community in our higher education institutions and businesses, both indigenous and foreign owned, have mobilised to address these key issues.

“The projects announced today, which take in health and social care as well as policy and industry, will help to address how we can ease the restrictions over time and get the country back up-and-running again.”

Professor Coffey said of her project: “We believe that our individualised support will have practical and demonstrable impact on nursing and allied health professional’s confidence in commencing, returning to practice or moving to new areas of practice and will be of benefit to professional bodies during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

“Our project will be evaluated using a realist evaluation approach to examine the process and impact on professionals and their confidence and competence in practice.

“We believe that our innovation will help to reduce anxiety and build personal confidence in dealing with issues during Covid-19 but will also have wider application for professionals returning to the workplace,” she added.

Professor Fortune said of his research: “A lot is expected of our frontline heroes during COVID-19. This UL project will look at how staff are responding psychologically and establish what helps them cope and how they are responding to this unique work situation. We will look at people at three, six and 12 months to understand what needs to be in place to best support staff in the medium and longer term.”

For a full list of successful projects, see here: