Times of crisis and opportunity

Governments acted quickly to fund COVID-19-related research and innovation at scale


In the first few months of the pandemic, national research funding bodies worldwide spent around USD 5 billion on emergency funding for COVID-19 R&D (see figure). That includes about USD 300 million in Asia-Pacific (excluding the People’s Republic of China, hereafter China), over USD 850 million in Europe and over USD 3.5 billion in North America. Philanthropic foundations allocated at least USD 550 million to COVID-19 research during this period, on top of their pledges to major international cooperative initiatives. In the second half of 2020, national research funders increasingly integrated calls for COVID-19 R&D into traditional mainstream funding mechanisms, which makes their identification and measurement more difficult. It is unclear whether this came at the expense of funding for other disciplines, and if so, on what scale. Indeed, the widespread engagement of the research community in designing solutions to COVID-19 risks diverting research efforts indiscriminately away from non-COVID-19-related topics.

Evolution of COVID-19 research funding programmes and pledges between March and September 2020

Source: OECD, Data were gathered from public sources published by funders. StatLink

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