Public policies for research and innovation in the face of the Covid-19 crisis


Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Interest on January 30, many countries have taken economic measures to respond to this unprecedented situation. Although most of them are focused on the health systems and on the mitigation of the impacts on employment and income and on companies, there is also a set of specific measures to strengthen research on Covid-19 and support the innovation capacity of companies hit by the crisis.

More than ever, there is the recognition that the exit from the health, economic and social crisis caused by Covid-19 will rely heavily on the capacity to produce knowledge and new technologies. Many researchers have already pointed out that a complete return to normality in all countries will only be possible once a vaccine or, at least, an effective treatment for the disease is discovered. This statement stems from the possibility that the virus will become endemic and persistent and that, therefore, controlling it will require vaccinating at least 6 billion people worldwide.

The scientific and technological challenges posed by the virus, however, go far beyond the vaccine. There are many unanswered questions regarding the disease, from epidemiological questions (effects of the disease, potential for virus transmission, which portion of the population is most vulnerable, which risk factors, etc.) to more efficient treatment and prevention protocols. Even before the discovery of a vaccine, it is possible to advance in auxiliary and supportive therapies, capable of helping countries to better deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. New protective equipment, respirators, faster and more efficient tests demand new knowledge and technologies. Once a vaccine has been discovered, there will still be a technological challenge to produce it on a large scale and in a short time in a scenario in which medical and pharmaceutical supplies are scarce and produced by a few countries. For developing countries, such as Brazil, which depend heavily on the import of medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies, these challenges are even greater.

All of these issues require a very large and agile research and innovation effort, so that they can provide answers in time to minimize the effects of the crisis on society. For this reason, many governments are coordinating initiatives, allocating additional resources to foster research and innovation, mobilizing universities, research institutions and companies and setting research priorities appropriate to their realities. The support of the scientific community has been essential in many countries, helping to design control and mitigation policies, as well as priority scientific and technological challenges. As this is a global problem, it is also possible to identify an international coordination for research on Covid-19, led by WHO and multilateral research institutions.

This article details the policies for research and innovation that are being adopted in some countries in order to seek solutions to the crisis. More than resources made available by national governments for research on the disease, it seeks to identify measures adopted to preserve the innovation capacity of companies and how governments have articulated their actions internationally and along with the scientific community[1].

International Coordination

The recognition of the importance of research and innovation to overcome the pandemic led WHO to organize, along with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GLOPID-R) [2], in the first half of February, a meeting with world scientists on COVID-19 to assess the current level of knowledge about the virus and define critical research questions to be urgently addressed. One of the results of this meeting was the publication, in March, of the document “A Coordinated Global Research Roadmap - 2019 Novel Coronavirus” which identifies priority areas of research, from clinical aspects, vaccines, treatments, and transmission to impacts on health systems and in society.

WHO has also coordinated initiatives and organized a global database of novel coronavirus researches. One of the main initiatives is Solidarity[3], a clinical trial involving researchers from several countries in order to discover the effectiveness of different treatments for the disease. In addition, all clinical trials on Covid-19 are available on the organization's main database, the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP)[4], which organizes the clinical trials currently underway around the world. [5]

Another prominent international initiative is the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is a multilateral organization founded in Davos in 2017 by the Norwegian and Indian governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Wellcome Trust (a UK non-profit private research organization) to be a global partnership between public, private and philanthropic organizations, with the aim of developing vaccines against emerging infectious for future outbreaks. The organization already has investments from several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ethiopia, Germany. [6] In the face of the pandemic, CEPI has focused its efforts on “a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new Covid-19 diagnostics, therapies and vaccines”.

It should also be noted that international coordination efforts go beyond research and clinical trials under development. An additional concern is that it is possible to guarantee access for all to the medicines and vaccines resulting from these researches. For this purpose, WHO includes in its list of actions the establishment of fast-tracks in national drug regulatory agencies and orientations on the production of drugs and vaccines to be developed. Another relevant issue to be considered concerns property rights, already discussed by Zucoloto et al (2020) [7].

Research and innovation measures in the face of the crisis in selected countries

Besides Brazil, the countries selected for the analysis are developed countries with high investments in R&D, both in absolute terms and as a share of GDP. They are also among the 10 countries with the largest number of clinical trials in progress, according to the WHO records. In addition, they are countries that have announced ambitious economic aid packages to deal with the crisis.

China, although it is the country with the largest number of clinical trials registered in the WHO, was not included in the analysis due to the difficulty of obtaining information on economic measures and on actions to stimulate research taken by the government to contain the crisis. The availability of quality information in English also weighed in the selection of countries.

United States

The United States (USA) is the country with the highest absolute volume of public investments in science and technology (S&T). Each year, the US government invests more than US$ 130 billion (or about 0.8% of its GDP) on R&D. More than 30% of this investment goes to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a group of research institutions linked to the US Department of Health.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the US government has launched 3 major packages of health and economic measures to combat it. The first was the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, on March 6[8]. Under that Act, an additional US$ 836 million was earmarked for research on Covid-19 at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the NIH. This law also includes an additional budget of US$ 3.1 billion for an emergency fund for health and social services, linked to the Department of Health, with the objective of preventing and responding to the coronavirus, “including the development of vaccines and control measures” and prioritizing technologies developed based on North American industrial skills. This supplementation more than doubles the budget previously available for this Fund, which was US$ 2.6 billion in 2019[9]. A significant part of these resources will be directed to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an institution responsible for carrying out R&D in biomedicine, whose budget in 2019 was US$ 561 million.

As the crisis worsened, the government enacted two more laws to contain the crisis. On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was approved by the Congress[10], with sanitary and health care measures, such as free trials and new rules for health licenses, in addition to budgetary supplementation for health and assistance.

Finally, the most broad economic package, called Cares Act[11], was launched on March 27, foreseeing the injection of more than US$ 1 trillion (approximately 5% of GDP) in new resources in the economy, US$ 500 billion in direct public spending and US$ 500 billion in credit for companies (60% for small businesses). In this package, again, new budget allocations for research and development were made, totaling more than US$ 6 billion[12]. Although it represents just over 1% of the volume of public spending to deal with the pandemic or about 4% of the little over US$ 150 billion allocated to government R&D in 2019[13], this value is still significant considering that it is oriented exclusively to research on Covid-19.

The table below summarizes the additional budget earmarked specifically for research and development on Covid-19 at different federal research institutions in the USA.

Table 1. US government resources for research and innovation to address the Covid-19 crisis


Source: Author’s elaboration based on the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act ( and Cares Act (

(*) Although these institutions are not typical of research and have sometimes received larger budgetary supplements, the values expressed in table are those provided exclusively for research, according the Act. The Department of Defense's health program, for example, received an additional US$ 3.8 billion, of which only US$ 415 million is allocated in law for research. In the case of NOAA, the estimated values are intended for operations, research and infrastructure, as it was not possible to identify the resources exclusively for research.

Obs. This table does not include the US$ 4.5 billion allocated to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which should be used in activities of epidemiological surveillance, infection control and expansion of operational capacity. Although part of these resources can be classified as research resources (epidemiological studies and expansion of laboratory capacity), it was not possible, from the approved legislation, to disaggregate them from other activities developed by the CDC.


The initiatives that will be financed by these additional resources range from research on how to control the transmission of the disease, to research and clinical tests on medicines and vaccines. BARDA, for example, has already opened a public notice for contracting research on various topics related to the response to the pandemic, including: i) diagnostic tests; ii) vaccines; iii) treatments; iv) immunomodulators; v) prophylaxis; vi) fans and vii) advanced manufacturing technologies[14].

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), in their strategic plan for Covid-19[15], have selected four research priorities: i) basic science to better understand the disease; ii) development of rapid and precise tests that can be used to test a significant portion of the population; iii) characterization and testing of potential treatments and; iv) vaccine development. By the beginning of May, the Institutes had already published more than three dozen calls for research funding in these areas[16].

In addition to the volume of resources, North American institutions are also accelerating their process of analyzing and selecting projects, in order to respond in a timely manner to the demands arising from the epidemic. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, has a rapid proposal evaluation mechanism, called Rapid Response Research (RAPID). This mechanism was created to face emergency situations and allows the researcher to send his research proposal, up to US$ 200 thousand, directly to the NSF, without the need to open a specific notice. The projects are evaluated, on an urgent basis, by a committee of scientists and the answer (and the funding) can leave in up to a week. As a result, in early March (less than 10 days after the first recorded case of Covid-19 in the United States), the institution was already funding more than 20 research projects on the disease.

From the point of view of the participation of the scientific community in the elaboration of public policy actions, all American research support institutions, like the NIH, have scientists on their councils and committees both for setting priorities and for approving projects. The executive branch also has a scientific advisory board to the president (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology - PCAST), made up of scientists from universities, research institutions, companies and non-governmental organizations. This council is linked to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and advises the president on S&T issues. In the Trump administration, however, this Council, which met at least twice a year, appears to have been emptied, having gone 33 months without meeting. On the agenda of the last meeting of this council[17], held in early February, there was no mention of the current health crisis. The Trump administration’s disregard for science is nothing new[18] as well as the scientific community resistance to the actions of the president, who has tried to reduce the science budget several times, fact that did not happened because of the Congress. Thus, although the country has a Scientific Council, it does not appear that it is being used by the executive branch to inform public policies for Covid-19.


Germany has prepared a package of measures of approximately 750 billion euros (equivalent to more than 20% of GDP) to tackle the pandemic . At the end of March, a supplementary budget was approved in order to finance these measures, providing additional resources of 122.5 billion euros.[20] This supplementary budget includes € 160 million for the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), of which € 145 million is directed towards research and innovation in health[21], specifically for vaccine development and measures related to Covid-19 treatment [22]. [23]

The Ministry of Education and Research has defined three priority areas for investment in health research. The first aims to identify the biology, transmission routes and dynamics of the virus, for which a € 15 million funding call was published, in early March. The second concerns the development of drugs for the treatment of the disease, both for the development of new active substances and for the development of actives substances already known and for which the launch of a specific (notice) warning is expected. The third priority, for which the ministry will allocate most of the additional resource, worth € 140 million, is supporting CEPI in the development of a new vaccine, reinforcing its alignment with international initiatives. The amount of resources allocated to these initiatives is greater than that available in the supplementary budget recently approved to deal with the crisis, indicating that the Ministry is also reallocating the existing research budget in Covid-19, in addition to the additional resources.

Furthermore, the ministry announced new projects / investments: providing an additional € 150 million for the establishment of a research network which will connect the research activities of German medical schools. The goal is “to set up a national task force and establish central infrastructure, including a patient database”. Although they have been announced as additional resources, it is not clear whether they are resources from the supplementary budget or whether funds from the original 2020 budget will be used. The second project announced was the support for the WHO Solidarity Trial, with an initial contribution of € 1.5 million.[24]

Another aspect to consider is that the increase in the budget for Science, research and development outside of higher education institutions was already foreseen for 2020, and considering the supplementary budget this increase was 11.8%. Moreover, in the first three months of 2020, it is also possible to identify an acceleration of expenditures on science, research and development when compared to the first three months of 2019, from 1.6 billion to 2.3 billion euros, representing a 37.1% increase in current values. [25] Although this acceleration in expenditure may be not exclusively due to Covid-19, it is reasonable to assume that reason as the main one, especially when one compares to the growth in total budget expenditures: only 4.5%.

Although the additional resources directly applied to research and development on Covid-19 are not as significant as those in the United States, Germany has also launched protective measures for start-up companies. The € 2 billion initiative will support venture capital investors and investment funds oriented to start-ups ensuring that smaller, innovative companies can survive the epidemic. Adding these resources to those approved by the supplementary budget, the estimated resources for research and innovation related to Covid are around € 2.1 billion, as shown in Table 2 below. [26]

Table 2. German government resources for research and innovation to address the Covid-19 crisis


Sources: Federal Ministry of Finance, Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI). Prepared by the authors.

Note: The exchange rate adopted for the conversion to US$ was in effect on March 2, 2020, available on the IMF website. ( €1=US$1,112

The German government, despite not having established a specific scientific committee to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, has based its decisions on the guidelines of Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences, an independent institution that brings together scientists from different fields of knowledge, which has also guided the measures related to relaxing coronavirus restrictions.[27] In addition, the key role played by the Robert Koch Institute, a federal institution responsible for identifying, preventing and combating diseases, should be highlighted in guiding government actions.


Canada's federal government has also announced a significant package of measures to contain the Covid-19 crisis. The first of them was the creation, in the first half of March, of the Covid-19 Response Fund which aims ensure the health and safety of the population. This fund has become part of Canada's Covid-19 Economic Response Plan, a set of measures to deal with the pandemic scenario.[29] The plan allocates approximately CAD$ 765 billion (equivalent to more than 30% of GDP) to support workers and companies during the pandemic and nearly CAD$ 107 billion for direct support measures, including the response fund.[30]

The fund has approximately CAD$ 1,101 billion and has an additional investment of CAD$ 275 million in health research specifically related to the development of vaccines, antivirals and clinical trials.[31] This investment is divided into two parts: R&D and innovation, mainly in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - CIHR Institutes,[32] and the new Covid-19 Strategic Innovation Fund.

CIHR is the Government of Canada's health research funding agency, responsible for the selection processes of the projects and research groups that will be financed. Specifically for research related to Covid-19 the first call for proposals had already been launched when the response fund was created.[33] After the creation of the fund, in March, another call for proposals[34] was launched, both in partnership with other research councils[35]. These calls were explicitly aligned with the guidelines established by WHO and selected 96 research groups across the country in record time, with an investment of CAD$ 52.6 million. [36] In addition, the Strategic Innovation Fund Covid-19 plans to invest CAD$ 192 million in projects to support large Canadian companies that develop solutions to overcome the pandemic.[37]

Additionally, also related to this first initiative, two other organizations have instituted measures aimed at research and innovation: the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The NRC established the Pandemic Response Challenge Program, worth CAD$ 15 million, comprised of government, academia and the private sector teams, to address specific disease gaps and challenges identified by Canadian health experts. The Program is structured around three main research pillars: rapid detection and diagnosis, development of vaccines and therapies, and digital health.[38] NSERC has also established a CAD$ 15 million program to boost partnerships between academia and industry for research and the development of pandemic-related solutions.[39] [40]

The second stage of investments in research and innovation was announced in the second half of March.[41] In addition to the resources of the Response Fund, approximately CAD$ 1 billion will be allocated to health research against Covid-19, mainly for vaccine development, treatments and virus tracking. Part of the planned investments will be focused on research networks or organizations and companies with specific objectives, detailed in Table 3.[42]

This second stage also allocates an important amount of resources to the Strategic Innovation Fund, which will be applied over the next two years to vaccine development projects and clinical trials in the private sector and in bio-manufacturing (CAD$ 600 million). At the same time, CIHR will finance projects that accelerate the development, testing and implementation of measures that mitigate the transmission of Covid-19 and its social and health impacts (CAD$ 114.9 million).

In total, the support for research and innovation planned for the two phases is approximately CAD $ 1,330 billion, accounting for 1.2% of the direct support measures provided for in Canada's Covid-19 Economic Response Plan. The table below summarizes the investments programmed in research and innovation by the federal government of Canada.

Table 3 - Canadian government resources for research and innovation to address the Covid-19 crisis


Sources: Author’s elaboration based on data from the Department of Finance; NRC; NSERC; CIHR;

Note: The exchange rate adopted for the conversion to US$ was in effect on March 2, 2020, available on the IMF website. ( CAD$1=US$0,749.

Regarding the role of the scientific community in decision-making processes, Canada has two advisory bodies which are informing policy decisions during the crisis. The first is the Special Advisory Committee of Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health and senior public health officials that supports the federal, provincial and territorial preparedness and response of Canadian health systems.[43] The second, instituted in April, is the Covid-19 Immunity Task Force that will guide the establishment of research priorities and inform the Canadian government about the spread of the virus, the immunity of the population and about the most vulnerable populations, allowing scientifically based decisions . [44]

United Kingdom

In the UK, public investments in R&D summed over £ 12 billion in 2017, or about 0.59% of GDP[45]. The biggest share of these investments are made by a quasi-governmental organization, called UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), created in 2018 under the stewardship of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This institution brought together several other pre-existing research and innovation support agencies in the United Kingdom, including Research Councils, which are responsible for supporting research in the country in different areas of knowledge; Innovate UK, an agency that fosters innovation; besides the former Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), responsible for financing universities. The UKRI's annual budget is approximately £ 7 billion.

On health research, the main research institution in the country is the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which invests in research, infrastructure and the training of researchers and which had a budget of approximately £ 1 billion in the 2018/2019 fiscal year[46]. The institution is part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Like many other countries, the economic measures adopted by the United Kingdom to face the coronavirus crisis were significant[47]. Some of these measures were outlined in an action plan against the coronavirus, made public on March 3[48]. A £ 30 billion fiscal stimulus package was released on March 11, which included small business grants, tax incentives, and about £ 5 billion for the National Health Service (NHS)[49]. Shortly thereafter, on March 17, the government announced a second package of measures, which comprised £330 billion in loan guarantees[50]. On March 20, the government also announced that it would cover up to 80% of the wages of workers who are unable to work during the crisis, a measure that is estimated to cost another £ 78 billion to British coffers[51]. In total it is estimated that the economic measures announced by the government will cost about 440 billion, equivalent to 20% of GDP.

In terms of investments in research to tackle the coronavirus crisis, the measures announced by the British government were more modest than those taken by the USA, at least with regard to funding for research aimed at better understanding the disease, its prevention and its effects and potential treatments. When the crisis started, the government was already debating, with Congress, the budget for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, which started on April 6. The budget sent already reflected the plan to increase public investment in R&D, from the current £ 12 billion to £ 22 billion in 2024/2025, reaching a level of 0.8% of GDP.

Among the first fiscal measures announced by the government were a supplementary budget of £ 30 million for the National Institute for Health Research to conduct research on Covid-19 and £ 10 million for tests and diagnostics by the Department of Health[52]. Even before the crisis, the institute would already receive an additional £ 12 million for disease prevention research under the original 2020 budget.

The United Kingdom has also launched an alliance to sequence the virus's genome and monitor its mutations in the country[53]. O Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, which includes public and private institutions, will have an initial investment of around £ 20 million, from the Department of Health, UK Research and Innovation and Wellcome Trust.

The UK Research and Innovation also announced, in early February, a Coronavirus rapid response fund to finance research on the development of interventions and on diagnosis and understanding of the disease[54]. The call ended the deadline for submitting proposals at the end of February and included £ 20 million from UKRI, in partnership with NIHR and DHSC. These mentioned initiatives aim to leverage scientific research on Covid-19.

In relation to innovation, BEIS announced, in early April, a £ 20 million fund to develop technologies focused on new ways of working in order to strengthen the resilience of companies in various industries, in the face of social isolation measures related to Covid-19[55]. This fund will provide grants of up to £ 50,000 to companies with proposals for innovations to deal with the crisis.

The country is also strongly committed to research related to the development of vaccines for the virus, having announced in March an investment of £ 20 million in CEPI, the international coalition working to develop the vaccine. As the crisis became worse, this investment was increased to a £ 250 million.

The most ambitious research and innovation program launched by the government due to the coronavirus crisis, however, was not intended to the development of research on the disease. The support package for innovative companies aims to preserve the innovative capacity of British firms hit by the crisis.[56] The package includes a £ 500 million investment fund for high growth companies, half of which will be contributed by the government and half complemented by private investors. In addition, the package also contains an additional £ 750 million in grants and credit for innovative micro and small businesses, to be made available by the British innovation agency, Innovate Uk.

The table below summarizes all the initiatives taken by the British government, until the beginning of May, to stimulate research and innovation in the face of the new coronavirus crisis. Unlike the American and German cases, where the approved legislation consolidated all the budgetary supplementation available for research, the information for the United Kingdom was collected from several announcements made by the British government at different times. In order to avoid double counting, initiatives with different objectives were listed in Table 4, that is, which probably constitute different initiatives with specific budgets. Despite this care, it is not possible to say with certainty what part of the additional budget allocated to NHIR and DHSC would already be (if at all) committed to other initiatives mentioned here: the Coronavirus Rapid Response Fund; the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium and the fund for business innovation. Even considering this possible double count, it is certain that the government has so far allocated between £ 1,310 and £ 1,350 million in resources to stimulate research and innovation to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Table 4. UK government resources for research and innovation to address the Covid-19 crisis

Table 4

Sources: Author’s elaboration based on several websites of UK government: i) 2020 Budget:; ii) Coronavirus Action Plan:; iii); iv) Investiment in the vaccine development coalition (CEPI):; v) Rapid response fund:; vi):; vii) Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium:

Observation: Exchange rate in 03/02/2020 (£1=US$1,278) from IMF *In the coronavirus action plan, the British government had already announced £20 million for this coalition. In April 17, the government increased the investment to £250 million.** The total package announced was £1250 million, of which £250 million would be provided by private investors and are not reported on the table.

With regard to the participation of scientists in shaping policies to combat the pandemic, the United Kingdom has a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)[57]. This group is made up of government technicians and renowned academy experts in health and is responsible for advising and supporting government decisions during emergencies like this.


The economic measures taken by the Brazilian government to combat the Covid-19 crisis include monetary ones, aimed at providing more liquidity to the financial system, emergency credit lines made available by public banks and fiscal stimulus measures.

The fiscal ones were estimated by the Independent Fiscal Institution (IFI) at R$ 211 billion[58] (equivalent to 2,9% of GDP). Among them are the emergency aid of R$ 600 for informal workers and wage compensation for workers who had reduced working hours because of the crisis.

In 2017, federal expenditures on R&D were R$ 25.7 billion, which represented 0.39% of GDP. Discounting the general university funds, the federal budget allocated to R&D was R$ 13.7 billion.[59]

From the point of view of new investments in R&D to face the crisis, two calls for tenders had been announced by the beginning of May to support research in this subject. The first one was launched on March 21, by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC) in partnership with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), in the amount of R$ 20 million, R$ 10 million federal funds[60]. The announcement is aimed at companies interested in developing technologies to combat coronavirus, ranging from diagnostic tests, pulmonary ventilators to personal protective equipment[61]. Although it was launched on an emergency basis, the deadline for the submission of proposals is May 22 and the results are expected to be published by June 19.

A second call for proposals, in the amount of R$ 50 million, was launched by The Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), on April 4, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, which contributed R$ 20 million [62]. The announcement is aimed at researchers interested in developing research on treatments, vaccines, diagnosis, pathogenesis; prevention and control, among others. The application deadline ended on April 27 and the result is expected to be released on June 15.

These notices were launched with the budget already available at MCTIC and do not represent new resources for research on Covid-19. However, two provisional measures (MPs) currently under analysis in the Congress provide an additional budgetary credit for MCTIC to invest in research on the disease: the MP 929[63] of March 25 and the MP 962[64] of May 06, which provide R$ 326 million to the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT) for the development of technologies and innovation to face the crisis. Furthermore, MP 962 also allocated an additional R$ 120 million to a program for the development of applied technologies, innovation and sustainable development.

It is noteworthy, however, that the FNDCT, which is the main scientific research fund in the country, had initially forecasted around R$ 4 billion, but mostof its resources (approximately 3.5 billion) was suppressed [65]. The Fund's real budget, therefore, began 2020 at roughly the same level as that observed in the early 2000s. From this point of view, these extraordinary credits do not even come close to restoring the Fund's losses in recent years.

The table below details the resources planned so far for R&D by the Brazilian government in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, which total approximately R$ 466.5 million.

Table 5. Brazilian government resources for research and innovation to address the Covid-19 crisis

Table 5

Source: Author’s elaboration based on data of the Integrated System for Planning and Budget from the Brazilian Government and the Ministry of Health.

Observation: Exchange rate in 03/02/2020 (R$1=US$0,223) from IMF

From the point of view of scientific advice, Brazil does not seem to be systematically using the country's scientific expertise in the formulation of public policies to face the epidemic, although it has a National S&T Council (CCT). Created in 1996, the CCT is formed by ministers, representatives of industry and academia and has the function of advising the President of the Republic in the formulation and implementation of scientific and technological policy. The Council had been extinguished by the current government in early 2019 and was reactivated in October, but since then, there has been no record of any meeting of this Council. More evidence in this regard, in addition to not having a formal mechanism for consultation with scientists and researchers in order to calibrate measures to combat the pandemic, is that, at the Ministry of Health, the Brazilian government has replaced personnel with technical profiles by military personnel with little experience in this area[66].

Conclusion: synthesis of actions in research and innovation in selected countries

All in all, besides the measures to minimize the economic and social effects of the health crisis and the inevitable measures of social isolation, many countries are investing heavily in what, perhaps, is the only definitive way out of this crisis: science and technology. The development of a vaccine or more effective treatments requires that the available knowledge about the disease be refined. Consequently, it is essential to mobilize scientists, universities, public and private research institutions, as well as innovative companies.

The definition of actions for the crisis must cross the borders of countries, after all, this is a global problem that will be dealt with more efficiently from international coordination. It is no coincidence, therefore, that many countries participate in global research initiatives aimed, for example, at the discovery of a vaccine for Covid-19.

Investments in research made directly by governments are not the only concrete measures being taken by countries. Some are concerned about the ability of their innovative companies to survive the crisis and maintain their investments and innovative capacity. They know that innovative companies will be instrumental in resuming growth in the post-crisis. Regarding this point, Germany and the United Kingdom created or reinforced investment funds in innovative companies in order to guarantee the financial strength needed to get through this moment.

Finally, and also absolutely essential, the adoption of consistent measures - whether health, economic or social - requires that governments be particularly well informed about the disease, its short, medium and long-term consequences and the best way to go through it. It is no coincidence, therefore, that many countries have created scientific committees to advise the federal governments, to assist in the design of measures capable of containing the pandemic.

The table below shows, in a synthetic way, what can be said about the way countries have used scientific knowledge and research to handle the current crisis. It contains the main research and innovation actions adopted to face the crisis.

Board 1. Actions in research and innovation adopted by countries to deal with the Covid-19 crisis

Board 1

Note: The exchange rate adopted for the conversion to US$ was in effect on March 2, 2020, available on the IMF website. ( £1=US$1,278; 1=US$1,112; CAD$1=US$0,749; R$1=US$0,223. * The calculation of this percentage is only intended to establish a standardized measure of effort between countries. It does not mean that there has been a percentage growth, of this magnitude, in the investments in R&D of the countries, given that some measures adopted are not R&D, but credit or investment in companies. The Value of the federal budget of these countries applied to R&D was obtained on the OECD website. ( in Germany, € 33.5 billion in 2019; in Canada, CAD$ 11 billion in 2017; in the UK, £ 12 billion in 2017 and; in the US, U$ 148 billion in 2019. The source for Brazil is, the value was R$ 25.7 billion in 2017. Prepared by the authors.

In general, countries have invested significant resources in research on the disease. In the UK and Canada these resources represent more than 10% of all federal investment in research and development in the last available year. In the United States, although investments represent just over 4% of the large federal R&D budget, they are significant in absolute terms and all this effort is being made in research related to the disease.

However, what can be said about Brazil is not encouraging. The country has not designed a long-term strategy to face the crisis. Even the short-term strategy, which consists of measures of social isolation, was carried out without any kind of federal coordination. The scientific community has advising some sub-national governments in defining these measures. At the federal level, although the MCTIC has created the so-called Rede Vírus, to bring together health experts, it does not seem that this network is being heard to develop a consistent and scientifically-based strategy to fight the pandemic.

From the point of view of scientific and technological policy, the lack of strategy and coordination is clear. The country has technological gaps that are visible in the lack of respirators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests for the disease. The attempts that have been made in order to develop internally some of them are totally uncoordinated, making it difficult to respond to the crisis and consolidate technological capabilities in the country. Depending only on technology produced in other countries, at this moment, is to condemn the country to face the shortage of medical equipment and critical pharmaceutical inputs to save lives.

Although Brazil is not at the vanguard of vaccine research, the country urgently needs to prepare a strategy to produce it (as well as the necessary inputs) or acquire it once it has been discovered. This requires monitoring the development of research and the possible future scenarios; otherwise, the country will be condemned to the end of the immunization line, which will aggravate the economic and social consequences of the crisis in the country.

It is necessary and possible to advance in the development of domestic technologies that can help to mitigate the effects of the disease on people, as well as the effects of the crisis on society. Therefore, however, it is essential to define priorities, based on the best available scientific knowledge, and expanding investment in research on the disease, in addition to the 470 million available to date. It is worth remembering that even these resources have not yet been used. The Brazilian government managed to make only two calls for research and innovation available to the scientific community and companies, in the amount of approximately R$ 60 million. The slowness of the selection processes, which should end only in June, is also not compatible with the emergence of the current crisis.


*The policies detailed in this text were summarized up to May 12, 2020. As the pandemic has required frequent improvements in public policies, it is possible that new initiatives had been taken by the countries after that date.

*The authors thanks the comments of Glauco Arbix, Graziela Zucoloto e Pedro Miranda.


[1] On the other hand, the resources invested and policies adopted by subnational governments, or which may be relevant in some countries, are not considered.

[2] Organization that brings together and coordinates research funding bodies on a global scale to facilitate the rapid development of research on infectious diseases. Accessed on 04 May 2020.

[3] International clinical trials to identify treatments for Covid-19 and Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[4] Accessed on 30 April 2020.

[5] Accessed on 04 May 2020.


[7] Accessed on 04 May 2020.





[12] This Value was obtained from the analysis of the law approved by teh Congress, identifying the Value received by typical R&D institutions in the USA.






[18] and

[19] Data collected until 06 May 2020. The authors would like to thank Nicolas Koeller for his support in translating German-language documents.

[20] Accessed on 09 April 2020.

[21];jsessionid=A6714A3C04CBB69099510062F6C63757.delivery2-replication?__blob=publicationFile&v=4. Accessed on 04 May 2020.

[22] Accessed on 04 May 2020.

[23] This supplementary budget also allocates additional resources to the Ministry of Health, of around € 3.1 billion, part of which goes to the Robert Koch Institute, the Federal Government’s central institution in the field of public health responsible for identifying, preventing and combating diseases, and to support international efforts by WHO.

[24] Accessed on 06 May 2020.

[25] Accessed on 21 April 2020.

[26] Accessed on 13 April 2020.

[27] and Accessed on 12 May 2020.

[28] Data collected until 05 May 2020.

[29] Information regarding the federal government of Canada is not available in a single consolidated budget, as the budget for the year 2020 has not yet been approved by Parliament. The budget has not yet been read in Parliament due to Covid-19, which, following the established protocol - budget secrecy -, cannot be presented to the public before that. Accessed on 13/04/2020. Despite this, there are three acts approved by Parliament that authorize the measures adopted: Bill C-12 - An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (special warrant) (, Accessed on 07 April 2020.), Bill C -13 - An Act respecting certain measures in response to Covid-19 (, Accessed on 07 April 2020) and Bill C-14 - A second Act respecting certain measures in response to Covid-19 (, Accessed on 05 May 2020). Thus, information on the consolidated values ​​related to the measures adopted are available on the website of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and each of the institutions mentioned.

[30] Accessed on 29 April 2020.

[31] Accessed on 13 April 2020.

[32] Accessed on 03 April 2020.

[33] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[34] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[35] The following Councils and Committees have participated: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Genome Canada (GC).

[36] Three provinces added funds to these calls through their organizations: Research Manitoba, Research Nova Scotia and Alberta Innovates - allowing to finance three more projects, increasing the total number of research groups to 99 and the total investment to CAD$ 54.2 million. Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[37] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[38] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[39] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[40] The NRC, through its Industrial Research Assistance Program, collaborating with Innovative Solutions Canada, also launched challenges for small and medium-sized companies for the improvement and development of solutions to meet Covid-19-related needs, however, the values invested in the program are not available. The program launched three challenges in April aimed at developing specific solutions for Covid-19: low-cost sensor system for COVID-19 patient monitoring; point of care and home diagnostic kit; and made in Canada filtration material for the manufacture of N95 respirators and surgical masks. Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[41] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[42] Accessed on 05 May 2020.

[43] Accessed on 09 April 2020.

[44] Accessed on 05 May 2020.















[59] Current Values. Accessed on 12 May 2020.