2 February 2021 | Bryony Parker

Your weekly digest of policy news, funding competitions, and calls for evidence.

What’s been in the news?

UK government launches new Covid-19 projects

The UK has launched a ‘New Variant Assessment Platform’, which is led by Public Health England. It will utilise the UK’s world-leading genomics expertise, in the search for new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. The initiative will help countries to identify changes in the virus and allow them to anticipate a mutation. It is soon to be led by the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) and also involve academic partners to analyse the samples taken from other countries.

Dr Isabel Oliver, Director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, said: ‘We know that the virus will evolve over time and certain mutations could potentially cause the virus to spread faster, make people sicker, or possibly affect how well vaccines work. Genomic testing is crucial to our efforts to control the virus – it allows us to keep an eye on how the virus is changing and to respond before it’s too late.’

UKRI has also announced that it is continuing to fund research projects on the effects of the virus in countries around the world. The UK is collaborating with Peru on five projects to investigate the impact of the virus on the most vulnerable communities such as the elderly and local farmers’ markets. These projects are part of an existing scientific cooperation which is funded by the Newton-Paulet Fund, partnered with CONCYTEC and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). To date, the UK has funded more than 50 projects on Covid-19 in developing countries.

In further developments, a multi-million-pound facility in Livingstone, Scotland for manufacturing the Valneva vaccine went into operation last week.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘Thanks to the UK Vaccine Taskforce, we have ordered up to 60 million jabs of Valneva’s promising vaccine if it proves to be safe, effective and suitable in its clinical trials this year.’

The Novavax vaccine has recently published data as part of its phase 3 study which shows a 89.3% effectiveness in preventing coronavirus in participants. The UK has secured 60 million doses which will be manufactured on Teesside, UK.

PoliSCI Newsletter - 2 February 2021 - image of coronavirus cells floating

EU launches ‘European Battery Innovation’

Last week, the European Commission approved up to €2.9 billion of investments in the ‘European Battery Innovation’ project. The project will cover the whole chain, from raw materials, to recycling and disposal in order to contribute to a circular economy. With industry investment, this project is backed by a total of 12 billion euros.

The project will focus on four themes within research and innovation:

  1. Raw and advanced materials
  2. Battery cells
  3. Battery systems
  4. Recycling and sustainability

It has been recognised that an integrated project across the value chain is important to ensure all components work seamlessly to be as high performing and affordable as possible. The project’s aims are improving the real-time control and measurement systems of batteries, improving the environmental footprint of battery cell production, and thirdly, making optimal use of digital technologies in processes across the chain.

Within the 12 member states involved in the project, 42 companies will be active including BMW, Fiat, Northvolt and Tesla. These participants will engage with 150 indirect partners all over Europe including SMEs, universities and research organisations.

PoliSCI Newsletter - 2 February 2021 - graphic of EU and battery icon

UK supports climate change projects

The UK has invested £84 million in the aviation sector in order to power a green aviation revolution. Green technology could potentially achieve zero-emissions air travel by 2023.

The funding is delivered through the ATI programme and is matched by industry. The winning three projects will use British innovation expertise in green technology to power zero-emission flights using alternative energy sources such as hydrogen or electricity.

Minister for Business, Paul Scully, said: ‘This multi-million-pound boost will help to secure up to 4,750 jobs in these projects spanning the UK, and could pave the way to technological advances that will allow the industry to build back better and greener following the COVID-19 pandemic – and help tackle climate change.‘

In similar news, PM Boris Johnson is set to announce a new international coalition to tackle the impacts of climate change. The Coalition will draw on the expertise of scientists, businesses, civil society and more. Partners include Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, along with the UN and will drive projects that could unlock up to 4,750 jobs across the UK.

In similar news, the European Commission is launching its new Green Consumption Pledge, an intitiative developed with 5 companies, which invites people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action and build a greener Europe. The aim is to acclerate a sustainable economic recovery and is based on five core pledges.

  1. Calculate the carbon footprint of the economy
  2. Calculate the carbon footprint of selected flagship products
  3. Increase the sale of sustainable products or services
  4. Commit part of the corporate public relations expenditure to the promotion of sustainable practices
  5. Ensure information is provided to consumers in relation to the company and product carbon footprints

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: ‘Empowering consumers to make green choices – that is what we set out to do last autumn, when we published the New Consumer Agenda. For informed choices, consumers need more transparency on the carbon footprint and sustainability of products. This is what today's initiative is about. I therefore warmly welcome the five companies to the Green Pledge and I applaud them on their commitment to go beyond what is required by law. I look forward to working with many more companies, so we can boost further sustainable consumption in the EU‘.

PoliSCI Newsletter - 2 February 2021 - graphic of 3d illustration green aircraft


Calls for evidence 

The regulation of genetic technologies
DEFRA is seeking views on the legislation for GE organisms and breeding methods, following the UK leaving the EU.

Deadline: 17 March 2021

Further information can be found here.


Zero emission vehicles and road pricing
This inquiry will consider the implications of accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles and the potential for introducing payment schemes.

Find more information here.


‘Best Available Techniques’ – A future regime within the UK
This consultation seeks views on the UK’s design of the proposed regime for the ‘Best Available Techniques’ to be used in environmental permitting for certain industrial activities.

Deadline: 17 February 2021

Find more information here


Funding competitions

Commercialising Quantum Technologies: feasibility studies round 2
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £7 million for feasibility studies or market research projects. Projects must last from 12 to 18 months and must end by 31 July 2023.

Deadline: 10 March 2021


ISCF TFI: large collaborative R&D projects
UK registered business or RTOs can apply for a grant share of up to £8 million for R&D projects to improve the UK’s foundation industries. Projects must last between 12 and 24 months.

Deadline: 10 March 2021


African agriculture knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP): 2020 to 2021, round 5
UK registered higher or further education institutions, RTOs or Catapults can apply for a share of up to £2 million to fund an innovation project. Business partner must be registered in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa.

Deadline: 14 April 2021


Innovate UK Smart Grants January 2021
Opportunity for UK registered organisations to apply for a share of up to £25 million from Innovate UK for commercially viable R&D innovations. Projects can last between 6 to 36 months.

Deadline: 26 May 2021

You can find further details of the funding calls on the Government website.

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