Go back

Sweden vows to frontload Covid-19 funds

Plans to plunge extra cash into first year of upcoming four-year research bill

Sweden’s research minister, Matilda Ernkrans, has outlined government plans to intensify research into Covid-19, including a boost to funding and fresh programmes at the Swedish Research Council.

In an editorial in Dagens Samhalle, a magazine aimed at decision-makers in the public sector, Ernkrans said that the government plans to boost funding for Swedish research and innovation by 3.4 billion Swedish kroner (€334 million) next year—“with the priority being health research, including viruses and pandemics”.

The money would be ploughed into science through the upcoming research bill, which sets out spending priorities for public research funds over a four-year period.

According to Ernkrans, Sweden is already a leading research nation with an outstanding research pedigree in medicine and epidemiology and a strong and flexible research community. This became clear, she wrote, when the pandemic broke out and Swedish researchers were able to initiate new projects at short notice and pivot towards dealing with the virus.

“It was our strong basic research and our high-quality research infrastructure with laboratories and equipment that made this possible,” she said.

Ernkrans said in the article, which was also published as a government statement, that politicians should be recommended for acting quickly. In April, the Social Democrat-led coalition pumped SEK100m into research on Covid-19 and pandemics.

“The investment has already led to 23 new research projects on Covid-19,” the minister wrote. “Researchers are now making rapid progress in the development of both vaccines and treatments for the virus, and a number of EU-funded research projects are being led from Sweden.”

According to the minister, the Swedish Ethics Review Authority has approved 260 clinical studies on Covid-19 since the spring. These cover a number of areas, including drug trials and the impact of the virus on the health of different populations.

Ernkrans wrote that the government is working in tandem with the Swedish Research Council which is, she said, planning on launching extra funding streams on virus research and Covid-19.

“The new SRC-led research projects will concentrate on those who have suffered from long-term symptoms after Covid-19,” she said. “And, for our part, the government will return soon with a new research and innovation policy bill, which will fund work into long-term side effects, as well as other research projects.”

Ernkrans explained that one of the reasons for the government’s plans to inject extra money into medical research was the sharp reduction in private research funding, due mainly to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.

“When private investments in research are temporarily reduced due to extenuating economic circumstances, it is important that the state increases its funding so that research continues and the supply of skills and competencies is ensured,” Ernkrans wrote.

The minister added that, unlike many previous research policy bills where funding increases are staggered over several years, in 2021 the government proposes to plough the whole increase into the first year of the 2021-2024 funding period.

“We will soon need to kickstart society and the economy,” she wrote, “as well as combat the inevitable decrease in funding from foundations and businesses.”

The minister finished her statement by saying that Sweden and the world faced a major challenge that needed new knowledge. “We know that we must continue to invest in research to recover from the pandemic, meet our societal challenges and strengthen society in the face of future crises.”