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Influential MEP calls for Covid-19 detection research prize

Image: Thierry Roge, European Union 2019

Christian Ehler says €30 million prize would help life return to normal in longer term

The European Commission should be doing more with the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D programme to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic, an influential MEP has said, including setting up a €30 million prize for technologies that can detect when people have been infected.

This would help member states lift some of the restrictions they have put in place to stem the spread of the respiratory disease, such as on international flights, suggested Christian Ehler (pictured), who helped shape the rules of participation for the EU’s current and future R&D programmes in the European Parliament.

“Yes, we should focus on vaccination,” Ehler told Research Europe, referring to existing EU plans to mobilise at least €140m on R&D around Covid-19, “but realistically, we have to adapt our societies to this phenomenon”.

The specificity of the task of detecting infection among travellers, the market readiness of the technologies involved and the narrow pool of possible providers all point to a prize—rather than project funding for pre-competitive technology development—as the best option if the EU wants to see roll-out in airports as soon as possible, he said.

“The narrower [a goal] gets, the closer to the market, the more attractive it is to work in prizes.”