UVic announces new fund dedicated to speed up COVID-19 research

Campus News

Research Accelerator Fund focused on COVID-19 recovery, future research projects

RAF UVic chemist Katherine Elvira is investigating low-cost patient monitoring solutions for COVID-19. Photo: UVic Photos Services
UVic chemist Katherine Elvira is investigating low-cost patient monitoring solutions for COVID-19. Photo: UVic Photos Services

As the world rushes to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Victoria announced on July 28 that they’ve established a new fund to help researchers on campus combat the virus. 

The Research Accelerator Fund (RAF) is calling for donations, while pledging to speed up recovery in a wide variety of areas impacted by COVID-19 including community health and safety, economic sustainability, and Indigenous wellness. 

“The new coronavirus has impacted our health, and social dynamics and it has exacerbated inequities, especially in marginalized communities, and the global economy,” said Michael Masson, acting/associate vice-president of Research at UVic, in an email interview with the Martlet. 

“Fundraising for research in this way is new for us, but we are excited about how this campaign can support and accelerate UVic’s research excellence.”

The news comes after the federal government increased efforts to expand funding for COVID-19 research across the country. Back in April, they funded 99 projects worth $54.2 million.On June 25 the government announced an additional investment of $109 million to 139 research teams for rapid COVID-19 research. 

While researchers receive funding from a variety of sources, Masson says, they often don’t secure a steady flow of funding — ultimately leaving researchers to spend a lot of time looking for new ways to collect money. With this new campaign and fund, he believes it will allow UVic researchers to spend time solely dedicated to researching ways to find solutions that will help communities recover from the destruction caused by COVID-19. 

Currently, there are about 100 active research projects related to COVID-19 relief efforts at UVic, relating to both scientific areas of research and the pandemic’s impact on mental health. Massons says a few particular projects UVic scientists are working on include manufacturing ways to develop rapid and non-invasive tests and virus-resistance surface coatings. 

“UVic researchers have extensive experience in community-engaged research … Important projects in these areas include studying responses to the impact of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities, evaluating mental health impacts of COVID-19, including suicide risk among vulnerable populations.”

In a press release, the university also announced it is looking at ways to support entrepreneurs and businesses as they adjust to working in a global pandemic. The RAF website outlines that both UVic’s Gustavson School of Business and Coast Capital Savings Centre are looking at ways to teach students how they can help small and medium businesses through financial uncertainty. 

While most of the attention is focused on how to speed up recovery from COVID-19, the university made it clear that the RAF is not a one-time fund and will still be accepting donations once the pandemic passes. In the long term, UVic says the RAF will support research projects in areas such as climate change, and anti-racism. 

“COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways. Even those who do not contract the illness are deeply affected by the disruptive changes we have seen in how our society functions,” said Masson. 

“This reality can feel very grim. But we truly believe that if we come together as a community we can find a positive way forward. We can pull together and create solutions for a better future for people, places, and the planet.”