Leading a global COVID-19 research and development response with the Eureka Network

- Ottawa, Ontario

The NRC delivers Canada's associate membership in the EUREKA Network and provides advice as well as access to networks and funding to eligible Canadian small and medium-sized businesses through NRC IRAP.

Following the COVID-19 global pandemic declaration on March 11, 2020, the NRC International Innovation Office EUREKA team rapidly recognized the opportunity to leverage the Eureka network members to combine forces and work together to develop solutions for COVID-19.

Through their strong network of engaged international partners, in less than three weeks, the NRC EUREKA team was able to mobilize 12 EUREKA participating countries to get involved in 2 calls for proposals focussed on developing co-innovation collaborations between small businesses, researchers, and innovators to find and accelerate solutions to the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the realities of connecting virtually, EUREKA launched, under our leadership, a brokerage website to help enable partnering at a distance.

The first call for proposals, "Solutions for COVID-19 Echo Period - Life without a vaccine," was launched on April 15, 2020, to support research, development and innovation for short-term and medium-term solutions to protect against COVID-19 while a vaccine is being developed. Several countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and South Africa joined this Canada-led global research and development initiative.

The second call for proposals, targeting long‑term solutions under the theme of "Solutions for post‑COVID‑19 - Next high‑impact human pandemic," was launched one month later, alongside Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

The unforeseen challenge of COVID-19 has brought together several key federal actors in co‑innovation programs around the globe, including Canadian government departments and programs such as Global Affairs Canada Canadian International Innovation Program, who provided an exceptional financial contribution to the first call for proposals. The NRC engaged relevant research centres to work alongside Canadian small and medium‑sized businesses for the second call for proposals. Finally, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada helped promote this initiative through their academic network.

This initiative was noticed by a broad range of actors, including businesses, researchers, universities and innovators. Many quickly indicated their interest in joining this collaborative effort against this global pandemic by submitting project proposals. A total of 18 collaboration projects including Canadian partners were submitted, presenting various research and development projects to either address short‑term solutions to overcome the pandemic challenges or to prepare for life after the COVID-19 pandemic, and to prepare for the next potentially high‑impact one. Successful projects are expected to be selected imminently.