EU - Global health R&D

This section focuses on donor countries’ support to global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world’s most disadvantaged people. Following the methodological approach used by Policy Cures Research (read G-Finder’s scope document), it focuses on donor funding and policy in three main areas: 1) emerging infectious diseases (EIDs); 2) poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs); and 3) sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As part of the EID R&D funding, this section also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). This section excludes domestic funding for health R&D that does not benefit low- and middle-income countries. (Not all funding mentioned qualifies as ODA.) 

The EUI was the third-largest donor to global health R&D in 2019 

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, the European Union Institutions (EUI; European Commission and European Investment Bank, EIB) contributed US$181 million in total to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in 2019, making it third-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. The vast majority (60% or US$108 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for PRNDs only. 30% (US$55 million) was spent on EIDs and 3% (US$5 million) was spent on R&D for SRH.  Funding in 2019 increased by 19% compared to funding in 2018 (US$153 million).

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The EUI spent US$57 million on R&D for EIDs in 2019  

In 2019, the EUI spent US$57 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$55 million) and funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$2 million). This makes the EUI the fourth-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2019.  

The EUI’s funding for EIDs increased in 2019 compared to 2018 (when it stood at US$31 million) but remained below 2017 funding levels (US$58 million). It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector; however, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; CEPI) is essential to ensuring preparedness in advance of EID outbreaks and ensuring a rapid response — in terms of both research and containment — to emerging disease threats.  

Most of the EUI’s EID R&D funding in 2019 went to R&D for more than one disease (23% of EID R&D funding) and filoviral diseases (which included Ebola and Marburg; 23%). Other areas that received funding included bunyaviral diseases (19%), Zika (17%), and Chikungunya (16%). A minute share (1%) was channeled toward coronaviruses, which included MERS, SARS, and COVID-19. 

In May 2021, the European Commission adopted a communication outlining the EU’s new strategy for a global approach to cooperation in research and innovation that includes a new ‘Africa initiative’ under Horizon Europe, the EU’s research program, and in cooperation with the African Union Commission to strengthen cooperation with African countries. One of the initiative’s pillars focuses on cooperation on public health broadly, including resilience and pandemic preparedness. The EU also plans to create a pandemic preparedness research partnership under Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe funding for EID research will be implemented in conjunction with the EU’s proposed new Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA), under the new EU4Health program. 

The EUI has stepped up R&D funding to EID through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$395 million between March and October 2020   

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and October 2020 (latest data available), the European Commission and the European Innovation Council announced funding commitments totaling US$394 million for COVID-19 R&D. US$200 million of this will go toward vaccines, US$148 million for unspecified purposes, US$30 million for therapeutics, US$14 million toward diagnostics, and US$3 million toward platform technologies.

At the EU-hosted 'Coronavirus Global Response' pledging event in May 2020, the EUI committed a total of €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) in grants and €400 million (US$448 million) in guarantees on loans at the EU-hosted pledging event. Of this pledge, €100 million (US$112 million) was provided for the CEPI and €158 million (US$177 million) for the World Health Organization (WHO). The EUI provided US$232 million to the Access to COVID-19 tools (ACT) Accelerator (ACT-A; which is a framework for collaboration through which donor countries have committed funds toward R&D for COVID-19). All the EUI’s funding for ACT-A was channeled toward the vaccine pillar. Not all ACT-A funding is for R&D, however, since it also has strong health system strengthening and vaccine distribution components. For additional information on the broader ACT-A global health response to COVID-19, please see Sector: ‘Global Health’.

EUI’s funding for PRNDs decreased in 2019 after a large spike in 2018 

In 2019, EUI invested US$121 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$108 million) and areas of overlap with EIDs (US$2 million) and SRH (US$10 million) and overlap with both SRH and EID R&D (US$404,000). This makes the EUI the third-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2019. Since 2016, the EUI has consistently remained the third-largest public supporter of this sector. 

Most of the EUI's funding for PRND was channeled toward R&D for more than one disease (66% or US$80 million). Other disease areas receiving funding included Malaria (9% or US$11 million), HIV/AIDS (9% or US$11 million), and tuberculosis (7% or US$8 million). 

The EU funds PRND research primarily through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). The latest iteration of EDCTP in the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is EDCTP3, also called the European Partnership for EU-Africa Global Health. EDCTP3 will strengthen clinical research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa while supporting clinical trials for drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for infectious diseases that affect sub-Saharan Africa. It will also fund novel approaches for surveillance and controlling emerging/re-emerging infections. 


The EUI is the fourth-largest donor to R&D for SRH

In 2019, the EUI spent just US$16 million on R&D for SRH, which included US$5 million for SRHR only, US$11 million for areas of overlap with ND, as well as US$404,000 for areas of overlap with ND and EID. This makes the EUI the fourth-largest donor to this sector in 2019. Funding peaked in 2016 when it stood at US$17 million and has remained mostly consistent since then.

A majority of this funding (66% or US$11 million) was spent on R&D for HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). In addition to HIV/AIDS, EUI made disbursements for R&D for human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer (15%), sexually transmitted infections (STIs; 8%), and pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (7%). 
The 2017 European Consensus on Development reaffirms the EU’s commitments to SRHR and calls for comprehensive information on sexual and reproductive health. The regulation establishing the primary development instrument in the 2021-2027 MFF, the Neighborhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI – Global Europe), also explicitly outlines the EU’s commitment to SRHR (including SRHR R&D). 

COVID-19 R&D is emerging as a key focus of EUI’s development policy 

According to information from the European Commission, the EUI has pledged €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) for coronavirus research. Funding will be aimed at addressing epidemiology, preparedness and response to outbreaks, the development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines, as well as for supporting infrastructures and resources that support COVID-19 research. Through ‘Horizon Europe’ - the EU research and innovation framework program for 2021-2027, EUI aims to continue investing in research and innovation to tackle infectious diseases including poverty-related and neglected diseases.

The European Commission’s DG for Research and Innovation has three main programs for global health R&D


The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) defines and implements the European research and innovation policy, which includes global health R&D. The EUI fund research and innovation through so-called ‘Framework Programmes’ that span the length of the current MFF. Horizon 2020, the EU’s eighth ‘Framework Programme for Research and Innovation’, was launched in 2014. It had a total budget of €79.3 billion (US$93.6 billion) for the period of 2014-2020. It focused on three key areas: 1) Societal Challenges (39% of the total budget); 2) Excellent Science (32%); and 3) Industrial Leadership (22%). Societal challenges include “health, demographic change and wellbeing”, which represent 10% of Horizon 2020’s total funding. 

From 2021 onwards, funding for research and innovation will come through ‘Horizon Europe’. The final budget of the program has been set at €84.9 billion (US$95.0 billion). Like Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe has three pillars: 1) Excellent Science; 2) Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness; and 3) Innovative Europe. Within the ‘Global Challenges’ and ‘European Industrial Competitiveness’ pillar, the ‘Health Cluster’ was allocated €6.9 billion (US$7.7 billion) and includes funding for infectious diseases including poverty-related and neglected diseases.

The European Commission’s DG for Research and Innovation has three main programs for global health R&D
The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) defines and implements the European research and innovation policy, which includes global health R&D. The EUI fund research and innovation through so-called ‘Framework Programmes’ that span the length of the current MFF. Horizon 2020, the EU’s eighth ‘Framework Programme for Research and Innovation’, was launched in 2014. It had a total budget of €79.3 billion (US$93.6 billion) for the period of 2014-2020. It focused on three key areas: 1) Societal Challenges (39% of the total budget); 2) Excellent Science (32%); and 3) Industrial Leadership (22%). Societal challenges include “health, demographic change and wellbeing”, which represent 10% of Horizon 2020’s total funding. 

From 2021 onwards, funding for research and innovation will come through ‘Horizon Europe’. The final budget of the program has been set at €84.9 billion (US$95.0 billion). Like Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe has three pillars: 1) Excellent Science; 2) Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness; and 3) Innovative Europe. Within the ‘Global Challenges’ and ‘European Industrial Competitiveness’ pillar, the ‘Health Cluster’ was allocated €6.9 billion (US$7.7 billion) and includes funding for infectious diseases including poverty-related and neglected diseases.