NEWS15 September 2023

Research helped mitigate Covid-19 impact in the UK

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – Publicly funded research helped shape government decision-making, helped ease the impact of the virus and saved lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report published by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

People in Covid-19 testing queue

The report, conducted by Technopolis and called Impact evaluation of UKRI’s research and innovation funding response to Covid-19, also found UKRI’s investments in Covid-19 research, equating to more than £500m, were value for money for the taxpayer.

Decades of strategic research and innovation investment prior to the pandemic in infrastructure, capacity and international cooperation underpinned the UK’s response to Covid-19, the report said.

Without this continued sustained investment, the report suggested the UK risks being left significantly vulnerable to future pandemics and other major shocks.

Advice from UKRI researchers guided and shaped schemes such as furlough and the gradual lifting of restrictions, which the report estimated to have saved up to 100,000 lives and prevented 300,000 hospital admissions, as well as UKRI funding for vaccine development and treatments and therapies.

For the first time, NHS records were linked with demographic information, giving an insight into the spread and unequal impacts of the disease across the UK, which was partly funded by the UKRI.

The report recommended the UK government support UKRI to invest at scale in public research and innovation, and for UKRI to upgrade research information systems to allow a more rapid emergency response.

UKRI was also urged to continue its efforts to facilitate the sharing of clinical and other administrative data for future emergency research.

Dr Jonathan Pearce, director of strategy and planning at UKRI’s Medical Research Council, said: “This report shows that the UK directed more of its research and innovation activity to Covid-19 than any other country. That work also had more measurable impact than in any other country.

“We’re not complacent though. Covid-19 hasn’t disappeared from our lives. UKRI will continue to support our collective effort to monitor new variants, track spread and address pandemic impacts, including in long-Covid.

“We also need to look to the future, learning the lessons the pandemic has taught us and provide the sustainable long-term investment that will empower our sector to be even better prepared and ready to step up to the mark, should we be hit by another pandemic or other shock.”