OECD Survey on the STI policy responses to Covid-19

 

Q6A. What impact on the STI system do you anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term, and what measures are you implementing to address those?


Updated on Response
Australia 2020-04-02 Over recent weeks, requests for COVID-19 testing have increased, as have demands on pathology supplies. It is expected that similar pressures are occurring worldwide due to the increased demand for testing. However, there are sufficient stocks within the Australian laboratory system to meet the current demand. The Australian Government is working closely with public and private laboratories, as well as manufacturers, to secure pathology supplies so that testing capacity can be sustained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Austria 2020-04-03 The corona crisis will only be solved with the aid of research and innovation. This has been stressed by members of the Austrian government in a joint press statement on March 21st 2020. The corona crisis is a time in which the government, and especially society, strongly rely on the expertise of and support from the STI-system all around the globe. What is currently witnessed is a rapid engagement across disciplines and nationalities of researchers from all institutions to jointly battle the crisis. In times like this, the significance of R&D and its direct impact on all our lives becomes more evident than ever.

At this point in time, it seems premature to describe the impacts of the Corona pandemic on the STI system in more detail.
Belgium 2020-05-13 In terms of impact, it is clear that many present and future R&I activities (like experiments) are placed on 'hold' (so that resources can be dedicated to the development of a response to the pandemic). This will cause important project delays and may lead, if the current situation is prolonged, to lack of expertise in other S&T areas.
Possible measures some Belgian players are taking include: to make use of the regulatory option to spend means for staff and consumables up to 2 years after the formal end date of the project to finalise the research; to postpone submission deadlines for research proposals; and to invite researchers to indicate in their fellowship reports any problems they encountered due to the coronavirus situation.

Another impact is on Postdoc evaluations. These are normally face-to-face but that cannot happen for the moment.
Measure: reducing the 2-step procedure to a single and online expert panel meeting for the evaluation and ranking of the applications, based on the available evaluation and synthesis reports for the pre-selection step.
Brazil 2020-04-03 SFor the short term:
- Loss of important human capital - Median age for researchers is typically higher than the general workforce - depending on the severity of the crisis;
- Disruption of ongoing research projects which require physical access to labs, other research facilities or medical facilities;
- Postponement of conferences.
For the medium term:
- Higher public understanding on the importance of R&D;
- Higher reliance and confidence on remote work and collaboration arrangements, both for Research and work in general;
- Higher perception on the importance of access to scientific information and resources (articles, data, etc)
- Better availability of FAIR research data.
- The improvement of coordination among different
agents of the STI ecosystem and development of capacity for quick response to immediate threat.
For the long Term:
- Higher focus on health-related research.
- An increase on the public perception as of the importance to invest in STI.
Canada 2020-05-08 Canada supports the statement of the ‘Global Preparedness Monitoring Board on COVID-19’ that called on countries, institutions, communities and partners to ensure that all relevant information about the outbreak is shared openly and rapidly, and that information should be made available for both human and machine-readable format to allow for full text and data-mining using AI with rights accorded for research re-use and secondary analysis. Open research was a requirement for funding under Canada’s Rapid Research Funding Opportunity on COVID-19.

In the short term, Canada is committed to fast-track and mobilize Canadian researchers and life sciences companies and support large-scale efforts towards medical countermeasures to combat COVID-19, including potential vaccines and treatments.

In the medium and longer-term, Canada aims to better understand and respond to emerging pathogens, while ensuring scientific excellence and leveraging novel technologies.
Costa Rica 2020-05-05 In the short term, the main impact is the ways research funds are used, because nowadays, most of these are addressing COVID-19 research.
Czech Republic 2020-05-18 The Czech Government adopted the COVID program (interest-free funding for entrepreneurs affected by coronavirus infection). It was prepared by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) and the Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank (CMZRB). It aims to facilitate access to operational funding for small and medium-sized enterprises, whose economic activities are limited due to the occurrence of coronavirus infection and related preventive measures (https://www.cmzrb.cz/en/).

Among the proposed instruments are:
• The COVID Loan program provides support for SMEs in the form of soft loans in the amount of CZK 500 000 (approx. 20 000 EUR) up to CZK 15 million (approx. 600 000 EUR) with zero interest rate. Loans are granted up to 90 % of eligible expenditure with a maturity of 2 years, including the possibility of deferred repayment for up to 12 months. The loan may be used, for example, for the acquisition of small tangible or intangible assets, the acquisition and financing of inventories or for other operating expenses and expenditures. There are no fees associated with the processing and granting of the loan or its possible early repayment. Applicants for the COVID Loan will benefit from this interest-free financing, if their contractual performance has been delayed, suspended or cancelled due to measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection (https://www.cmzrb.cz/podnikatele/uvery/u...).

• The guarantee program COVID II was the next one in a series of upcoming supports announced by the CMZRB (https://www.cmzrb.cz/podnikatele/uvery/u...).

• The CMZRB in cooperation with the MIT, Capitol of Prague and commercial banks prepared further guarantee schemes such as COVID Prague and/or COVID III. The COVID Prague Program was already launched. The COVID III Program will be announced soon.

Estonia 2020-03-30 Less mobility and travelling bring with them more remote studying, working and video conferencing via specialised devices and software; more commercial and government services are moving online, and more digitalisation and automated production is occurring in industry. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is continuously observing, encouraging, coordinating and implementing these developments in the Estonian government and enterprises.
European Union 2020-06-12 Short-term impacts:
• Some impact on scientific events (including e.g. health research related conferences), increased workload on health professionals (some impact on their research work) and potential slowdown in clinical trials activity.
• The mobility of human resources in science, technology and innovation is affected (including researchers, scientists, postdocs) but appears limited to some regions. The impact on Europe’s science and innovation capacity is thus limited.
• Limited impact is also expected on global innovation networks process industries (incl. energy and resource intensive industries such as chemicals or steel) or materials research organisations.
• Low impact is expected on EU research & innovation projects, as the participation of China in Horizon 2020 is low.

Medium-term impacts:
• A strong decrease in overall mobility across countries and places in the EU occurs, also for researchers and innovators operating outside of restricted areas, and this has a moderate impact on Europe’s science and innovation capacity, which is largely based on such mobility.
• Regular postponement and cancellation of scientific events (including health research related conferences), clear overload of health professionals (with a detrimental effect on their research work) and recurrent delays and cancellation in clinical trials. All those are very likely to have a significant impact on scientific developments in the short to the medium run.
• Strong impact on global innovation networks and - depending on how the situation evolves - potential delays and a reduction of activities. China, US & Germany host the world’s largest R&D investor firms that perform R&D activities away from headquarters. Large impact expected on the activities of those R&D investors and on the work in related R&D labs.

Long-term impacts:
• There is a very large estimated loss of total public & private EU R&D investments of -1.3% (€3.9bn) in 2020.
• The mobility of human resources in science, technology and innovation (including visiting researchers, staff exchanges) is marginal or close to zero, focusing only on a very limited set of health professionals that do research. This has a durable negative impact on Europe’s scientific production, breakthroughs and the translation of scientific outcomes into solutions, which will be very hard to reverse over the medium term, as national science capacity is built very progressively.
• The impact of the outbreak on global innovation networks is very strong with particularly hard impact expected on the activities of large R&D investors (which are largely preforming their R&D activities outside of EU headquarters) and on the work in related R&D labs. This is particularly noticeable in countries such as Germany which host many of those large R&D investing companies and labs. Innovation processes will slowdown as employees in R&D labs and testing facilities may have to stay home.
• Among the 4 most affected third countries by COVID-19 (China, South Korea, Japan, Iran), 3 fall within the 20 most active countries in Horizon 2020. The impact of the outbreak under this scenario is larger for Horizon 2020, given that the 4 most affected countries represent 15% of the ongoing participations of the third countries in the programme. Actions under Horizon 2020 that imply networking of research groups will be more impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
• All major scientific events get postponed or cancelled (including health research related conferences), the overload of health professionals impedes them from doing any research work, and most clinical trials get cancelled. This scenario has major significant impacts on scientific developments in the medium run.
Finland 2020-05-21 The Academy of Finland has taken measures related to the application process, the use of funding, decision-making, etc.
https://www.aka.fi/en/about-us/media/wha...
France 2020-05-25 Among the possible impacts on the national STI system, a tightening of the open science policy could be considered, in particular with regard to data.

Also, questions about national independence (capacity to carry out tests for example) could change the national STI system.

An assistance plan for doctoral and post-doctoral students is currently under consideration (to date, March 26).
Germany 2020-04-06 In the short term, there is a need for an “emergency funding for R&I” to fully mobilize, involve and interconnect the available research capacities throughout Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. Evaluation and funding decisions should be fast and the bureaucratic burden of applicants must be minimized. All options for making project funding more flexible are to be used until further notice. The researchers and laboratories as well as the SMEs that are already active in the development of vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and treatment need financial support. If successful, support should be continued in the medium term to advance candidate products through clinical development. Also, immediate sharing of results and more urgently available data is crucial.

In the medium term, the contribution of digitization in the fight against virus pandemics is essential. Supercomputers and big data can effectively improve the simulation of disease spreading or the automatization of the analysis of targets for new drugs and treatments. Preparedness networks, e.g. of researchers, hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories, should receive continuous funding in order to have structures in place to rapidly respond to outbreaks.

In the long term, more basic and bottom-up research in virology end epidemiology is required. Sufficient support for fundamental research in life sciences and biomedicine as well as platform technologies should be mobilized.
Greece 2020-05-07 The current global crisis due to coronavirus will have a particularly negative impact both on the public research system and on the companies involved in research projects (mostly SMEs but also several large companies with R&D activities). Most R&D project funding in Greece is provided by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF). In particular, the beneficiary companies already face severe liquidity problems and will hardly comply with the requirements of the ESIF Regulations in order to receive the installments foreseen in the funding contracts. We believe that the risk of not implementing or not completing the research projects is particularly high and such a development would have disastrous consequences for the businesses themselves, but also for the absorption of the NSRF 2014-20 funds. Consequently, we plan to negotiate an extension of eligibility of expenses of the current programming period up to 2025.

At the administration level we are taking all possible measures to ameliorate the effects of restrictions and closures to our universities, research centres and enterprises. We, therefore, extended all deadlines for submission of proposals for R&I projects as well as those for interim monitoring and completion of running projects, upon request by the coordinators. At the same time we will make every effort to speed up the administrative steps and audits for interim / final reviews of projects and to allow / enable timely payments to the enterprises and research organizations that implement and complete their projects.
Ireland 2020-03-30 Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board, and the Irish Research Council released a statement (https://www.sfi.ie/research-news/news/co...) outlining the short-term approach to the STI system: a pragmatic approach will be taken which prioritises the safety and wellbeing of the research teams and the agency staff.

Other activity has to-date focused on rapid response. Longer term impacts will be considered and addressed in the future.
Israel 2020-03-30 Ideation - 4M shekels
Academic applied research - 6-8M shekels
Product and services development - 22-24M shekels
Manufacturing support -18M shekels
Italy 2020-03-29 In the short term, we need to reflect on how to improve our foresight activities. Most OECD countries invested in these activities in the past, and designed their STI medium-to-long term initiatives accordingly, but we should recognise that our ability to anticipate troubles looming on the horizon was, at best, inadequate.

Despite the scourge of SARS, MERS and EBOLA, just to mention the most recent viral disease outbreaks, in the last couple of decades we have been listening to a narrative that communicable diseases were as extinct as dinosaurs, but obviously they are not. Therefore, we should accordingly revise our vision and our priorities for investment.

To guarantee preparedness worldwide - because we know that there will be other epidemics, but we do not know where they can break out again in the future - we should encourage and incentivise seamless sharing data and best practices worldwide. Italy sees this as one of the priorities for the European Open Science Cloud which is now entering into operation.

Furthermore, we should make use of smart directionality, based on scientific evidence and, hence, on research, in orientating the evolution of our health systems. This evolution, in the recent past, has been characterised by a trend which led to a reduction of hospitalizations per inhabitant on one hand, and, on the other hand, to strengthening large care centres. This concentration process, providing greater quality, competence and cutting-edge technologies, should have been accompanied, in principle, by an enhancement of primary care, to ensure overall care services as close as possible to the citizen. In reality, especially in the case of complex care pathways, and the Covid-19 is a case in point, a significant communication and coordination gap remains between these two settings of care, which can cause, and indeed has caused in the current epidemic, a harmful delay in the early detection of cases, which is crucial for circumscribing a sprouting epidemic.

In this complex challenge of combining the need to guarantee proximity of the services to the patient and the excellence of the healthcare, a fundamental role can be played by new technologies, that can allow these two perspectives to be reconciled, to improve and simplify the processes of diagnosis and care and, in short, to bring excellence to the patients’ home.

Therefore, besides the ordinary instruments of the current and future R&I programmes, a step forward would be a ‘one stop shop’, to be co-funded by a multilateral initiative (see e.g. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), with an open-ended list of topics, among which a place should be reserved to the development of technologies aimed at supporting preparedness and resilience of our health systems and increasing social cohesion, through a strong person-centric, smart primary health care.
Japan 2020-03-29 In the short-term, research exchanges and international research collaboration are expected to stagnate due to restrictions on overseas travel. MEXT has permitted the flexible use of funds for the support of researchers' overseas travel, and has been working to ensure that research exchanges will be promoted as usual after the situation is improved.
In the medium- and long-term, it is expected that private investment for R&D will decrease due to economic recession. Additionally, the needs of providing scientific evidence in order to adequately respond to infectious diseases and the importance of further deepening international cooperation for addressing infectious diseases will grow. It is necessary to establish a framework for sharing knowledge and data on infectious diseases across countries.
Korea 2020-03-28 - In the short run, R&D budget for infectious diseases will increase; in the middle to long term, international cooperation for infectious disease response will be strengthened (e.g. sharing of information about infectious disease symptoms, global platform for virus data, joint development of vaccines and treatments, global disease prevention and control system, etc.)
- Korea is implementing measures to reorganize STI system for infectious diseases and periodically check the system, and plans to establish a virus research institute that comprehensively studies viruses to systematically respond to infectious diseases.
Latvia 2020-03-30 Providing some flexibility for deadlines in certain projects.
Lithuania 2020-03-30 - In the short term, we expect the research community to become more active;
- in the medium term, closer inter-institutional, international cooperation (including focused individual action);
- in the long term, we expect more targeted investment on COVID-19 (financial, administrative, voluntary initiatives, etc.) not only from the public sector but also from knowledge-intensive business.
Mexico 2020-03-29 The national Council for Science and Technology is planning to provide resources on specific research for the disease. In the short term we might see a decrease in activity first for the obligated quarantine but mostly because lack of resources that might need to be directed on patient care. CONACYT is working on a long term plan on how to get more information from researchers and act on them. The objective is to implement National Innovation Plan in the medium term.
Netherlands 2020-04-01 It is hard to forecast the eventual consequences. On the short run, there are already a few results:
- less R&D teaken place (best guess, no official data yet, however already firms indicating).
- Clinical trials are harder to do;
- Firms, especially young firms, find it harder to attract venture capital.
On the longer run, firms might start to do more R&D, as they can put their attention in R&D rather than operational activities. This has been a result of the 2008 financial crisis. It is hard to tell if these results also are valid for this crisis.
New Zealand 2020-03-30 We are still assessing the impact, particularly on international travel and collaboration, and also as remote working becomes standard. As of 26/3/02 it was too early to begin considering any widespread measures for the science system.
Norway 2020-04-30 The higher education sector, the business sector, the institute sector and other stake holders with different backgrounds, are working strategically to find innovative solutions for communication and cooperation. This new insight will in time change the way we interact.
Portugal 2020-06-05 Introducing changes in funding rules/conditions and procedures to speed up processes and streamline bureaucratic procedures;
Streamlining the launch of European, regional and national calls for tenders/research proposals, in order to significantly diminish the Time-To-Grant;
Intensification of transnational cooperation as sharing knowledge and information on needs and capacity will contribute to a more efficient protection of infected citizens and contagion limitation.
Russian Federation 2020-04-01 It is difficult to anticipate the impact of COVID-19 crisis on the Russian STI system especially in the medium- and long-term. In the short-term one might expect targeted support of focused research devoted to the development of drugs against the coronovirus infection, as well as the development of new means for testing the COVID-19. Considering the expected slowdown in the global economy, gross R&D expenditures may decrease in the mid-term, especially those performed by the business enterprise sector. On the other hand, we may expect a further increase in the digitalisation of science and the economy as a whole, as well as strengthening of the role of the state. In the mid-term, a revision of STI policy priorities and certain growth of innovation activity (as a result of the search for the opportunities to meet the demand in new economic conditions) might take place. In the long-term, there is a possibility for the development of autonomous production technologies (within the framework of general partial reindustrialisation) and for the robotisation in the service sector.
South Africa 2020-03-29 The situation is fast evolving, thus, it is difficult to predict the exact impact at this time. However, it is clear the impact on South African economic growth will be significant and science and innovation will have a crucial role to play to boost growth, continuing the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality. The Department is currently finalising the Decadal Plan, which will be an implementation framework for its 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation and which will include the measures to address the Covid-19 impact.
Spain 2020-04-01 In the short term, the COVID-19 sanitary crisis is having a dramatic negative impact at the Spanish economy and to the Spanish System for Science and Innovation also. Currently, it has stopped or slowed down the current calls and the administrative procedures. The economic impact will be translated in difficulties to follow the positive investment trends of our systems. More importantly, at the strategic level. Currently Spain is finishing the future Strategy for Science and Innovation and health sector will be part of the main challenges.

At short and medium-term at the economic level. After the economic crisis, while Spain showed a positive path of economic growth it was slowly advancing in terms of investments towards RDI policies. Regarding Research and Innovation (R&I), Spain remains a ‘moderate innovator’ with declining-flat overall performance relative to that of the EU. However, while the central government budget for R&I has been growing slightly since 2013 and the relative level remains very low and with modest intensity of the Spanish Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD). Thus, the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis will impact in the recovery public and private investment with, perhaps, a window of opportunity in the health sector due to the strength in the centers, initiatives, groups and projects in the sanitary area.
Sweden 2020-03-28 Increased funding will give more research.
Switzerland 2020-05-20 On 16 March, the Federal Council classified the situation in Switzerland as an "extraordinary situation" and introduced various restrictive measures that also affect the functioning of the STI system. The institutions concerned are reacting pragmatically to the problems arising in the short term (e.g. extension of submission deadlines).

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) provides flexible solutions for researchers: extension of mobility fellowships, extending projects, evaluation of career funding schemes etc. (see Coronavirus: SNF update; http://www.snf.ch/en/funding/directacces...).

Researchers involved in Horizon 2020 Projects or preparing for upcoming calls have difficulties fulfilling their research activities on time. Switzerland is involved in the discussions with the European Commission, Member States and Associated Countries on how to support ongoing and future research activities accordingly.
Thailand 2020-03-31 COVID-19 crisis may result in the shortage of instrument or facilities for R&D. Closure of labs due to social distancing policy may disrupt some of the R&D work. On the other hand, we foresee that there will be some major changes in STI policy as well as modification of R&D objectives.
Turkey 2020-04-10 In the scope of RDI support mechanisms and programs, priority has been given to themes related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides the calls published on vaccines, therapies, drug design and biomedical equipment, one of the high technology platforms funded by TUBITAK has been assigned to Covid-19 drug and vaccine development. Another call will be launched on the socio-economic, societal and industrial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deadlines of calls within RDI support programs, scholarship programs, STI human resources development programs, and science and society activities have been postponed. Digital systems for online project proposal evaluation, peer review and panels have been established. It is foreseen that the procedures for support programs will continue digitally until the effects of the pandemic subside.
United Kingdom 2020-03-31 Minister Amanda Solloway has written (Monday 23 March) to all Higher Education Institutions and other research institutions on the work currently being carried out across the research sector. See https://www.ukri.org/files/news/science-...

UK Research and Investment (UKRI) is providing wider advice to researchers and research institutions about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on them and their work. https://www.ukri.org/news/coronavirus-im...

A coordination group involving the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UKRI, the Department for Education (DfE), the Office for Students (OfS) and others to gather evidence and intelligence on the financial and delivery impact on research of the pandemic.