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Midlands Innovation COVID-19 Research Strengthens Global Recovery

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Midlands Innovation has launched 99 COVID-19 research programmes since May 2020, which will shape how the UK recovers from the pandemic.

Midlands Innovation is a partnership combining the strengths of eight research-intensive universities, which has mobilised experts in healthcare and medicine, economics, engineering, environment, law, and social science to be awarded research projects worth £53 million.

The research findings will inform our understanding of the virus, help prevent future spread, provide support to people with long Covid symptoms remotely, improve indoor environments to reduce the spread of airborne viruses, and safeguard the most vulnerable people and communities from the impact of COVID-19.

Professor Trevor McMillan, chair of Midlands Innovation, said: ‘This new research is building on the clinical trials and medical research which the seven MI Health partners rapidly implemented in the first 12 months of the pandemic. Collectively, we now need to look at ways to support economic, social, and individual recovery.

‘The breadth of the 99 research projects and scale of the funding which has been awarded is testament to the capability of the research teams across the Midlands Innovation partnership and the strength of our collaboration alliance.

‘I’m confident that these research projects will provide valuable insight for decision-makers, government, industry, and health organisations.’

Dr Helen Turner, director of Midlands Innovation, also commented: ‘Our partners have mobilised research teams incredibly quickly in a broad range of disciplines, working with regional NHS and business collaborators, to find solutions that will improve the lives of individuals and communities.

‘Thanks to the collective effort of academics within the Midlands Innovation, we have been able to quickly operate at scale to tackle one of the biggest challenges faced in our lifetime.

‘This highlights the strength of our partnership and sharing this knowledge and expertise nationally and globally will not only shape the lives of people now but also in the future and in light of any future pandemics.’

The research programmes below highlight some of the most recent projects undertaken by Midlands Innovation partners

A research team from the University of Nottingham is learning how simple plastic surfaces can be recruited to the fight against contact transmission of SARS-CoV-2. By identifying how the virus behaves on plastics widely used for PPE and other infection protection control services, recommendations can be made on which polymer is best used for manufacturing future PPE equipment and materials to protect key workers.

The TLC Study is a two-year project by the University of Birmingham that is identifying new opportunities for remote therapies in non-hospitalised individuals experiencing long Covid symptoms. A digital trial platform will be established to evaluate the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and willingness of participants to engage in a virtual support service.  

Loughborough University is leading a project to understand how primary healthcare settings, theatres, open-plan offices, and retail spaces could benefit from improved ventilation to reduce the spread of airborne viruses.

The University of Leicester is leading the UK’s most comprehensive and largest study into the impact of long Covid, PHOSP-COVID. Currently, there is very little information concerning the long-term effects of COVID-19 and what the ongoing medical, psychological, and rehabilitation needs for this group of patients will be to enable them to make as full a recovery as possible. To address this gap, the £8.6 million government-backed study is recruiting 10,000 patients who have been hospitalised with COVID-19. Over the course of a year, clinical assessments will track patients to gain a comprehensive picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on longer-term health outcomes across the UK.

Researchers from Keele University are analysing the fairness, equity, and justice implications of the current COVID-19 vaccine rollout model in relation to international law. The team are assessing the role of governance frameworks and the role they play in ethical global vaccine distribution.

Aston University, well known for its research on SMEs and entrepreneurship, is researching the impact of the pandemic and the range of government interventions on growth and productivity. Allied to this, the University is working with the government to develop strategies, interventions, and policies to support small businesses and their vital contribution to economic recovery. This research will influence the future of the emerging hybrid working model.

While Cranfield University is undertaking research examining employers’ experiences of using part-time working by following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’s (CJRS) ‘flexible furlough’ and whether this has changed employer perception of part-time roles. The outcome will have implications for government policy relating to the role of part-time working in the economic recovery.

An in-depth study into how misinformation during pandemics can create panic, fragment social response, and affect rates of transmission is being led by researchers at the University of Warwick. Researchers are focusing on information distribution through social media and ways to present information to combat infodemics.

Find out more about Midlands Innovation on their website.

Learn more about the Midlands Innovation universities’ joint approach to fighting COVID-19 here.

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