In March 2020, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW) granted SciLifeLab a total of 50 MSEK to be used for research related to COVID-19. SciLifeLab then launched a national call, open for researchers nationwide, with the hope to create a comprehensive program to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The call contained three focus areas:
Proposals were to mainly address one of the focus areas, be placed in an international context and contribute to open science when possible. Applicants were welcome to participate in several proposals.
The application process was rapid (one-page application, rapidly evaluated) and funding to be granted primarily for short-term (2020) initiatives. Funding was mainly meant to cover research costs, such as development of technologies or use of SciLifeLab infrastructure and data capabilities. In exceptional circumstances, personnel costs could be considered, but with the expectation that the work starts soon and does not depend on new people being hired.
The call was closed on March 30 and a total of 285 proposals were submitted, with applicants ranging, from Swedish universities and hospitals, to industry organizations both in Sweden and abroad.
The SciLifeLab management group evaluated all proposals individually, but also considered synergies and grouped proposals into thematic areas when relevant. Besides scientific impact, the evaluation criteria considered were relevance and impact on tackling COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities created by the SciLifeLab infrastructure and potential for synergies and collaborations.
On May 4, 2020 the SciLifeLab Board approved to fund a total of 67 projects (24% of all eligible applications) using the KAW COVID-19 research grant made available for this purpose and an additional 12 MSEK of national SciLifeLab funding to support COVID-19 research capabilities within SciLifeLab infrastructure and community. More information, and a full list of awarded projects, can be found in the SciLifeLab Board Meeting document Minutes from board meeting no 43, 4 May 2020 (per capsulam).
During evaluation, it became evident that the projects could be grouped into defined research areas, allowing the projects to benefit from shared expertise. A total of 9 research areas were formed and each of these will be provided with a coordinator to facilitate collaboration, team science and synergies to be formed within and across each area.