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Macron announces €5bn for research in wake of coronavirus

Image: NEC Corporation of America [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

French president ramps up emergency medical funding, gives 10-year boost to science budget

Faced with the coronavirus outbreak, France will up its research budget by €5 billion over the coming decade, the president has announced.

The French government will also immediately contribute €50 million to an emergency fund in the hope of developing a vaccine for Covid-19. French president Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that long-term support of research was vital for society, and claimed the boost was the largest since the second world war.

“The Covid-19 crisis reminds us of the vital nature of scientific research and the need to invest massively for the long term,” he said. “I have decided to increase our research effort by €5bn, an effort not seen since the post-war period.”

Macron made the announcement during a meeting with researchers from the Pasteur Institute and Inserm. The Pasteur Institute is a non-profit private foundation dedicated to medical research, while Inserm is France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

Macron said: “We have three research priorities: tests, treatments, and the [development of a] vaccine.”

The Élysée, the office of the French president, praised both Inserm and the Pasteur Institute for having been “at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus since the first days of the crisis”. Speaking at a press conference, Frédérique Vidal, minister for higher education and research, said that the goal of the extra funding was to rebuild France’s capacity for research.

“The government and the president of the republic have made a definitive choice to reinvest massively in research, which has suffered from chronic underinvestment for over 30 years—something that has put France in a fragile position,” she said. “We are engaged in a fast race for research on the coronavirus, the search for treatment and the development of vaccines.”

Vidal said that the initial €50m would be released “very rapidly”. The funding will be provided via the National Research Agency.

The €50m will be awarded in addition to €8m announced last week in support for 20 coronavirus research projects in the fields of epidemiology, diagnostics, clinical treatments and therapeutics, and human sciences. Last week’s announcement did not include any funding for vaccine research.

The move follows a series of protests and strikes by researchers and academics who expressed anger at the government’s reforms of research planning and funding. Last week the president said during a televised address to the nation that all reform programmes were on indefinite hold, following the coronavirus outbreak.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe