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U of T says federal funding will help researchers 'weather the storm' of COVID-19

(photo by Ken Jones)

The federal government is coming to the aid of researchers at Canadian universities and health research institutes – including the University of Toronto and partner hospitals – that were forced to halt work due to COVID-19.

The $450-million aid package, announced today by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is designed to help universities and research labs retain skilled personnel and resume critical work once social distancing measures are lifted.

Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation, and strategic initiatives, said the funding will help the university’s academic research community absorb the impact of the global pandemic and continue its ground-breaking work.

“COVID-19 has sent shockwaves across the world causing unprecedented disruption affecting everyone, including the academic and research community,” Goel said. “This support from the government of Canada will help U of T and partner hospitals weather the storm and preserve their impressive track record of research and discovery for the benefit of people in Canada and around the world.”

Researchers working on COVID-19 and in some critical essential areas have been able to continue their laboratory work while others have continued to work remotely. But some have been forced to put their work on hold – for example, those working with human subjects in health settings. Funding sponsors, including industry and charitable foundations, are also facing their own challenges and so have reduced support. As a result, some hospitals were facing the threat of having to layoff research staff. 

The funding package will provide wage subsidy support for these research personnel. 

The funding is also meant to help universities and research institutes resume their activities once physical distancing measures are relaxed by covering up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs, including those related to shutting down laboratory operations and for a safe restart.   

“Science and research is our door to a brighter future and that has never been clearer,” said Trudeau during his daily news briefing outside his Ottawa home. “But because of the pandemic many labs have closed or at risk of imminently closing.”

The funding will be delivered as a block grant through federal granting agencies, Trudeau added. 

“By delivering this money through federal granting agencies, we will get help out as quickly as possible to the people who need it.”