Deputy Ministry for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy has drawn up a National Research and Innovation Action Plan for the rapid development of innovative approaches to deal with the effects of COVID-19.
The Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriakos Kokkinos said in an interview with CNA, the goal is to mobilize all Research and Innovation fields in Cyprus, in order to develop innovative approaches to address the effects of COVID-19, with a significant impact on society and the economy.
The Plan was drafted by the Deputy Ministry after consultation with all stakeholders, in collaboration with the National Research and Innovation Council, the Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF) and the Chief Scientist, Dr. Nikolaos Mastrogiannopoulos.
The Action Plan calls on all actors of research and innovation to contribute in the national strategy to meet the increased challenges that the pandemic poses.
The three pillars of the National Action Plan
Kokkinos noted that the National Action Plan comprises three different levels. The first pillar concerns financial opportunities for research organizations and innovative companies and includes six actions.
The actions focus on the adaptation of existing financial projects of the RIF to deal with COVID-19, the announcement of new invitations, the formation of innovative solutions with the direct participation of citizens – which will be the final users – and the encouragement of private sector contribution.
Kokkinos pointed out that the Deputy Ministry has recently launched the #DigitalSolidarityCY platform, inviting all agents to provide ready-made solutions and applications to facilitate communication, distance work and education, information and entertainment of citizens.
“The response was impressive as more than 100 organizations rushed to make their services available, which are now available through the digital platform www.digitalsolidarity.gov.cy,” he said.
The second pillar of the Action Plan includes the facilitation of the local ecosystem on issues related to access to research data on COVID-19 but also on more practical issues related to funded projects such as the extension of deadline for submission of proposals.
Finally, the third pillar provides for support through research and innovation, providing to stake holders digital media and systems.
Kokkinos stressed the important role of the Excellence Centers, whose contribution was crucial both in the tracking process and in the wider collection and analysis of data on the spread of the virus in Cyprus.
Asked about the European funds and whether there has been any differentiation, Kokkinos said that both the Deputy Ministry and the RIF are closely monitoring the process of drafting the European budget for financing the activities for research and innovation to address the pandemic.
“The relevant information is provided by the RIF, which continues to provide consulting services for Cypriot research and innovation proposals that will compete in the context of invitations of Horizon 2020 funding program, including special invitations to deal with COVID-19.”, he said.
Kokkinos also said that some of the proposals of the European Action Plan for COVID-19 give Member States the opportunity to accelerate the digitalization and development of cutting-edge technologies.
In particular, as he said, it was decided to announce a new call for proposals, through the “Horizon 2020” Program, to fund new technologies that provide immediate solutions to issues related to improving the quality of life and living standards of society, especially in the field of Information and Communication technologies as well as medical technologies.
In addition, he said, the action focuses on supporting innovative businesses that aim to develop technologically advanced solutions, provides access to high-risk financing and grants, has special invitations for small and medium-sized start-ups, as well as opportunities to contact investors.
Research on COVID-19 well under way
Asked about progress regarding COVID-19, Kokkinos said that the research was well under way, but nothing could be officially announced yet. As he said, both studies and experiments are moving quickly.
He noted that the European Commission is currently supporting 18 research projects and 151 research teams across Europe for epidemiological studies, clinical trials, diagnostic tests and treatments, with a total budget of € 48.2 million.
He also notes that European Commission makes efforts to ensure Europe`s future autonomy in vaccine production, so that they can be produced and distributed in accordance with the values of ethics and solidarity.
There are also arrangements, he said, for coordination between the European Commission and Member States as well as for the creation of a network of research structures across Europe to conduct experiments.
He added that one of the actions provides for the immediate and efficient exchange of data and results related to the treatment of COVID-19, through the European Open Science Cloud.