COVID-19: Rapid Response Research Opportunities

Written by Ruth, Updated 04 May, 2020

Covid-19 Nurse

Researchers from across the world are currently coming together to help in the fight against novel Coronavirus, and to increase the resilience of countries and health systems in tackling the on-going pandemic.

New health, social, environmental and economic problems mean new research opportunities. In this article we highlight some of these research opportunities that can be funded through UK funding bodies.

NERC COVID-19 Public Engagement Grant

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is inviting proposals for public engagement with environmental science which understand, address or mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding aims to help researchers to find different and better methods of engagement that they would not otherwise be able to implement. It could also help researchers to find alternative ways to gather data, or to consider how a diversity of audience groups will be affected and able to access digital engagement.

Ideas considered to be out of the scope of this call include: (i) Digitisation of pre-existing documents (ii) One-way engagement (iii) Engagement with international audiences - engagements should focus on the UK public only.

Proposals will need to support the five primary objectives and underlying approach stated in the 2020-2025 NERC Public Engagement with Research and Innovation Strategy.

NERC intends to fund projects costing up to £10,000. Successful projects must be completed by 31 March 2021.

Closing date for proposals: 16:00 (BST) Wednesday 13 May, submission via email to Hannah Lacey at

The British Academy Special Research Grants: COVID-19

Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the British Academy is currently inviting humanities and social science researchers to offer their specific insights on the global health pandemic resulting from COVID-19.

Primary and secondary research could explore issues such as:

The above list is not exhaustive and is intended to highlight the contribution that the humanities and social sciences can offer in terms of our understandings of and range of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Level of award: Up to £10,000.

Project duration: Starting from 1 July 2020 and lasting up to 24 months.

Deadline for applications: 17:00 (BST) on Wednesday 27 May 2020, submission via the Academy’s Flexi-Grant system

Ministry of Defence Open call for innovation – covid-19 fast track

This Open Call is looking for innovative ideas to improve the defence and security of the UK. Ideas could be a concept, technology, or service. There are two categories of proposal: Emerging Innovations and Rapid Impact. The former, Emerging Innovations, includes proposals at Technology Ready Level (TRL) 3 or 4. No funding limit is specified. However, funding would typically be between £50K - £100K, with the project lasting 3-10 months. The latter, Rapid Impact Innovations, would be expected to be at TRL level 6 or 7. Typical funding would be between £100K - £350K, and projects should have a realistic prospect of achieving impact within 3 years.

Although this is an Open Call, periodic deadlines for fast track applications have been imposed. The next deadline is 28/04/2020.

The competition assessment process comprises 10 steps.

To apply you must register and submit your proposal via the DASA Enterprise Collaboration Service.


Proposals are invited for projects of up to 18 months to address the health, social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Proposals must meet at least one of the following criteria:

There is no closing date for this call therefore you can apply at any time. There is also no specific budget – research of any scale may be funded if it can deliver demonstrable impact within 12-18 months, and 80% of costs will be funded.

UKRI has a dedicated Coronavirus Hub detailing their current responses to Coronavirus, including information concerning available grants and awards. You can also apply to switch your existing funding to Covid-19 priority areas.


COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research is being prioritised to gather the necessary clinical and epidemiological evidence that will inform national policy and enable new diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines to be developed and tested for COVID-19.

The Government has established a single point of entry for applications – all proposals must be submitted via a single online application form to avoid the duplication of ideas, and to allow prioritisation of the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the virus.

NIHR have released the following list of nationally prioritised projects for which universities and health care providers are being urged to prioritise support.


Funded as a part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Urgency Grants Pilot is an open, responsive mechanism through which arts and humanities researchers can respond to unanticipated urgent research needs. The call is now open to applications addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and associated international development challenges and impacts.

The primary focus of this scheme is to provide an accelerated route for funding projects where there is a time-limited window of opportunity to conduct research or deliver project impact/outputs. Applications must demonstrate how the project meets the urgency requirements of the scheme.

The closing date for expressions of interest is 31/10/2020. Projects will receive up to £150,000 of the full economic cost (fEC), and projects should be up to 12 months in duration.


Time is of the essence: millions of pounds worth of funding has already been awarded to projects across the UK and EU . We will keep you updated on new funding opportunities as they emerge, or possibly re-open. For example, the Wellcome Trust’s Epidemic Preparedness: COVID-19 funding call is currently closed due to high levels of interest, however new applications may be accepted in the future.

If you would like to respond to these or any other Covid-19 Rapid Response calls, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at and we will help you to craft a strong and persuasive funding bid.