UfM Member States met this week to discuss actions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis through research and innovation as well as a strategic regional cooperation approach to accelerate evidence-based healthcare decision-making.
8 April 2020. Conscious of the pressure that COVID-19 puts on health systems, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is exploring ways to speed and scale–up actions in the field of research and innovation. This was the objective of the virtual meeting of the UfM Regional Platform on Research and Innovation, held earlier this week.
The wide spectrum of initiatives announced by the European Commission and UfM Member States showed the potential for regional cooperation in terms of establishing collaborative platforms, clinical data collection and access, creation of common databases on technologies and joint development of industrial research solutions and medical treatments/vaccines. The need for a strategic regional cooperation approach regarding the socio-economic implications was also underlined.
UfM Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, stated: “Our duty is to ensure that a complete overview of the research undertaken in the region is made accessible to all those involved in this pandemic and in health decision–making processes. This regional cooperation framework will also include research initiatives on climate change factors in order to effectively prevent and control the spread of potential upcoming pandemics”.
Countries from both shores of the Mediterranean shared their ongoing research actions to address the global pandemic COVID-19, ranging from calls for proposals, clinical trials to trainings. The European Commission highlighted that health is among the priority sectors of the current European Neighbourhood Policy, namely health threats and communicable diseases and that the EU has recently awarded 18 new research projects for €48.5 million involving 140 research teams from across the EU and beyond to face the COVID-19.
In Jordan, universities have launched an initiative called « Teach yourself initiative » to engage students, doctors and researchers through distant learning. Meanwhile in France, the platform «REACTing» brings together a multi-disciplinary collaborative network of French research institutions working on emerging infectious diseases to prepare and respond to epidemics. Spain has recently launched an emergency research package to accelerate results applicable to the current situation along with €500 million for SMEs to accelerate production systems and treatments. Tunisia has launched a scientific multi-disciplinary committee involving education and health experts that led to the set-up of a production line of ventilators and masks in an Engineering University.
The participants followed-up on topics that had been previously identified by the UfM Platform, notably the contributions to support the region in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They agreed that the current crisis will have an impact on the thematic priorities of cooperation in the region, but that it is indispensable to continue handling very much linked emergencies. In this sense, it was decided to work together on identifying more specific issues on areas such climate change and renewable energy research, going beyond the present initiatives related to water and food (PRIMA), blue economy (BLUEMED) and migrations.
The meeting was introduced and concluded by the UfM Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, and co-chaired by Maria Cristina Russo, Director for International Cooperation at the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, and Arafah Dia-Eddin, Secretary-General of the Higher Council for Science and Technology of Jordan.
- Conclusions of the meeting – full document coming soon
- World Health Organisation’s database on research on coronavirus
- The economic aftermath of the COVID-19: Devising actions for recovery
- COVID-19: Actions for a healthy development in the Mediterranean