Over the past year, up and down the UK, thousands of research and innovation projects have been publicly funded to tackle the pandemic. Researchers and businesses in Yorkshire and The Humber are playing a key role in how the UK is combatting COVID-19. Their work forms part of a £550 million COVID-19 rapid investment programme by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – the largest public funder of research and development in the UK.
The diversity of UKRI-funded projects is vast – from the world’s first COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, to projects that help us understand and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our economy, environment, education, arts sector and mental health. This funding builds on decades of public investment and research expertise which have provided the backbone to our national COVID-19 response.
Yorkshire and The Humber’s leading universities have received significant UKRI funding. Researchers at the University of York want to understand how people with mental health problems have been impacted by the pandemic so are working directly with those people affected to gather their views. The results will be used to make recommendations for supporting people with severe mental illness during a pandemic.
Researchers at the University of Leeds are recruiting primary schools across the city to examine the impact of class cancellations and remote learning during lockdowns. By comparing pupils’ progress since the first lockdown using recent teacher assessments, the team is studying how the numeracy, literacy and language development of four and five-year-olds has been affected. The findings will help schools allocate catch-up support and provide guidance for a national strategy in case of further disruption.
With the closure of venues and museums, lockdown has had a major impact on the cultural industry. By tracking how the sector has been affected and how audiences have adapted to digital spaces, a project led by University of Leeds – and collaborating with researchers across the UK – is creating a national picture of both the immediate and long-term implications. By assessing the impact of intervention packages it aims to inform policy for the recovery of the sector.
Another project at University of Leeds looks to understand the risks of coronavirus transmission on public transport. The team will measure levels of the virus that can cause COVID-19 by taking air and surface samples on buses and trains, along with creating detailed simulations to understand how the virus can spread.
Professor Catherine Noakes from the University of Leeds said:
“Our funding from UKRI was integral to the development of our project. Our team is leading a study to understand the risks of COVID-19 transmission on public transport. We hope our findings will enable transport operators to identify the risks of passengers getting COVID-19 and make informed decisions from that data.”
Professor Charlotte Deane, COVID-19-Response Director at UKRI said:
“Looking back over the past year, it’s clear that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many aspects of our lives, but I take more than a glimmer of hope from the extraordinary work being undertaken by researchers and businesses across the UK. These projects are just the tip of the iceberg. They show the tenacity and creativity of our research and innovation communities in Yorkshire and The Humber and beyond, who have stepped up in the most challenging of times to come together and fight back against this devastating disease.”
These projects are among 3,600 new COVID-19 projects, totalling over £554 million, being funded by UKRI across the country in response to Covid-19.