In the last weeks we have seen in Flanders numerous initiatives to the COVID-19 crisis, many of them arising bottom-up, often in collaboration with European partnerships that received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Everywhere in the region, research groups, as well as companies, have reallocated budgets to address different issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Flemish minister of innovation also announced an extra budget of 3.5 million euro for COVID-19 research for the Flemish biotech institute VIB.
The Flemish universities and their experts play a crucial role in the guidance and decision-making of this unseen crisis. This is particularly challenging, as the virus is new and its pathophysiology, the epidemiology and social impact need to be better understood to develop better diagnostics, vaccines, treatments and interventions.
Industry is also committed to develop solutions for various aspects related to COVID-19; from the hackaton organised by the Belgian start-up community, to the unprecedented collaboration between several life science companies to help address this global health emergency.
In dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the research has been broadly addressed and covers epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and social impact. The Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation has published an overview of the ongoing initiatives that we know of, which you can find attached to this article. For more information on these initiatives, please contact authors Kathleen D'Hondt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jolien Roovers (email@example.com).
Besides the crisis measures taken on the federal level, the Flemish government launched a package of financial instruments to help companies, e.g subordinated loans, increased guarantee capacity for a COVID-19 derogation in the guarantee schemes in accordance with the temporary EU state aid framework. Furthermore, the government of Flanders gives a compensation premium to companies suffering turnover loss due to the obligation to close as a result of the measures of the National Security Council and financially supports companies faced with a severe drop in turnover due to exploitation restrictions imposed by the National Security Council since March 12. A taskforce "Flanders fully Digital" has been set up to better cooperate on COVID-19 related initiatives on a digital platform. If you want to know more on the economic measures the Flemish government has taken, please contact Karel Boutens (firstname.lastname@example.org).