COVID-19: Rapid Response Research Opportunities

Written by Ruth, Updated 02 September, 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-based funding bodies.

Policy research programme – recovery, renewal, reset: Research to inform policy responses to COVID-19 in the health and social care systems

NIHR invite applications for research to inform the medium- to longer-term health and social care policy response to the challenges posed by Covid-19.

Topics that have been highlighted as a priority for the September round within the Research Specification:

These highlighted priority topics may be updated between rounds.

Grant range: Funding will be allocated flexibly across projects on the above topics. Large projects exceeding £500,000 are not expected to be funded. High-cost or high-risk projects will be subject to additional peer review. Most projects are expected to be costed at around £50,000 and will be suitable for fast-tracking.

Duration: Projects that will complete or produce early outputs during 2020 will be favoured. Projects are expected to last more than 24 months.

Stage One applications must be submitted via an online form, available within the Central Commissioning Facility of NIHR. Following expert review, successful applicants will be invited to submit a full Stage Two application.

There are three initial commissioning rounds for this call:
13:00 BST 10 September 2020
13:00 BST 22 October


UKRI COVID-19 and ethnicity research

Building on the UKRI previous call for research on Covid-19 and ethnicity, UKRI is issuing a new call for proposals in this area to tackle the gaps in the research landscape. As the pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that minority ethnic groups have been among the most vulnerable - both to the disease itself and to other harmful social and economic consequences stemming from the pandemic and its impacts.

UKRI welcomes proposals for research that explores the causes and dynamics of these vulnerabilities and impacts, and their ethical and broader socio-economic and cultural dimensions. Research is urgently required to build understanding of measures that might help mitigate poor outcomes. This is particularly important as the UK eases Covid-related restrictions and in the event of any resurgence of the disease nationally or in local “hotspots”

UKRI has funded several projects focusing on minority ethnic groups and COVID-19. This call aims to fund research in areas that have not been covered sufficiently to date.

Topics within scope related to the experiences of minority ethnic groups:

Topics out of scope:

Grant range: UKRI’s ambition is to fund one or two consortia in this area, with a combined value of up to £5 million.

Duration: Proposals must define the project’s deliverables and outputs at 3, 6, 12, and 18-month milestones.

Deadline: Midnight on 18 September 2020.

Application process: Applicants should apply through Je-S and use the phrase ‘COVID BAME highlight’ at the beginning of the grant title. Guidance is available on the UKRI website - UKRI’s Agile Research and Innovation Response to COVID-19.

Art Fund Respond and Re-imagine grants

Art Fund are offering Respond and Reimagine grants to help museums, galleries and cultural organisations respond to immediate challenges connected to the Covid-19 crisis and offer support to adapt and reimagine ways of working for the longer-term future.

This programme has been developed in response to a sector consultation which identified priority areas for support, as follows: Audiences, Collections, Digital and Workforce.

Applications are welcomed from UK public museums, galleries, historic houses, libraries and archives that ordinarily have spaces for the public to visit and experience the visual arts or other object-based collections. Organisations applying for the fund must demonstrate that they operate to best practice standards or have a good track record in delivering high quality public activity.

These grants are designed to provide practical support, for example in terms of costs connected to re-opening, such as staffing, equipment or training, or planning for future activities.

Grant range: £10,000 to £50,000. 100% funding available.

Deadline: 17:30 BST 12 October 2020.

To apply, first email The detailing how much you plan to apply for and which funding round you plan to apply to. You may then submit your application via the My Art Fund online portal.

Heart Research UK Covid-19 Research Grant

Heart Research UK is offering a Covid-19 specific research grant to support research into the links between Covid-19 and heart disease.

There is a pressing need to improve our understanding of the links between Covid-19 and the cardiovascular system, including how Covid-19 infection influences heart disease and whether it changes the ways in which we treat patients. We know that people with existing cardiovascular disease have a higher risk of severe complications from Covid-19 infection, and evidence is emerging that the virus can cause damage to the heart.

Heart Research UK will consider a range of research areas from biomedicine to public health studies. However, the applications must demonstrate the potential benefits of the research to patient health and pathways to clinical impact.

Examples of eligible topics:

All grant applications are assessed by carefully selected external peer-reviewers, in addition to the Heart Research UK Medical Review Panel.

Grant range: Maximum of £250,000 with equipment costs of up to £10,000.

If the project does not commence within 12 months of the grant award date, Heart Research UK may withdraw the funding.

To apply, complete the application form and supporting documentation for submission via email to .

Deadline: 13:00 BST 12th October 2020.

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 deadlines are 01/10/2020, 03/12/2020, 28/01/2021 and 31/03/2021.

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.


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.

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.