EC approves €5.3 million Maltese scheme to support coronavirus research

Medical staff members, wearing face masks, take a break in an intensive care unit for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients at the Clinique de l'Orangerie private hospital in Strasbourg, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, France April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The European Commission has approved a €5.3 million Maltese direct grants scheme to support investment in research and development related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission in March, as amended in 3 April 2020.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager who is in charge of competition policy remarked that the Maltese scheme will support research projects to develop urgently needed medicines and products and innovative analysis tools that could help the authorities better tackle the coronavirus health crisis.

“We continue to work closely with Member States to support measures that can improve our knowledge of the coronavirus and can help us find solutions for the future,” Vestager said.

Malta notified the European Commission about a scheme to support research and development activities related to the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants which will be accessible to companies of all sizes and includes public entities, that are established in Malta and intend to carry out research and development projects on coronavirus and other antiviral relevant research and development projects.

The aim of the scheme is to support the development of innovative solutions to the current coronavirus health crisis, such as relevant medicinal products and treatments, medical devices, hospital and medical equipment, disinfectants, data collection and processing tools, and applications supporting a better dissemination of recommendations by health authorities. At the same time, the scheme aims to improve foresight tools and methodologies for the future, by drawing on lessons learnt from the current pandemic.

The European Commission found that the aid intensity varies between 80% and 100% of the costs incurred by the beneficiary, depending on the type of activity performed and on the presence of cross-border collaborations.

Under the scheme, any results of the research activities will be made available to third parties in the European Economic Area through non-exclusive licences.

MCST launches COVID-19 R&D

The Malta Council for Science and Technology has launched a COVID-19 R&D after the state aid proposal was approved by the European Commission.

In a statement the government said that the fund is aimed at providing innovative and/or improved approaches with regards to the current and/or other antiviral relevant research, control and contain the spread.

The government explained that the projects put forward could address the following:

  • relevant medicinal products (including vaccines) and treatments, their intermediates, active pharmaceutical ingredients and raw materials; medical devices, hospital and medical equipment (including ventilators and protective clothing and equipment as well as diagnostic tools) and necessary raw materials; disinfectants and their intermediary products and raw chemical materials necessary for their production;
  • data collection and processing tools related to innovative and/or improved approaches with regards to current and/or future infectious disease prevention;
  • trajectory of the epidemic/pandemic disease;
  • applications aimed at better dissemination of recommendations by national (Public Health) and/or international health authorities (WHO);
  • any other antiviral relevant research that can lead to human epidemy.

To benefit from these grants, the proposals should be novel and do not correspond with ongoing or completed projects funded by other instruments, programmes or projects.

Projects that have received a COVID-19-specific Seal of Excellence quality label under the Horizon 2020 SME-instrument would also be eligible to apply under this fund.

The Parliamentary Secretariat for Digital Economy said that all proposals must be timely, with rapid activation, to enable early and valuable outcomes to be established. The successful proposals will enter into a grant agreement with the MCST and the Malta Enterprise. The aid must be awarded by 31 December 2020.

Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Economy Clayton Bartolo welcomed the news and thanked Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.

“This will enable our country to strengthen our knowledge about the coronavirus and other tools which might help the health authorities while doing their analysis”, said Bartolo referring to the approval of state funding the research and development projects.

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