The FNR has published its annual report for 2020, a year which was obviously marked by the COVID-19 crisis, but which also saw the funding of 299 research projects for a committed amount of 97.06 MEUR.
The increase in these two figures can be explained on the one hand by the rapid implementation of calls for projects launched within the framework of the activities of the Research Luxembourg Task Force, and on the other hand by the increase in the number of projects submitted in specific programmes (CORE, BRIDGES, Industrial Fellowships).
The FNR worked with lola – strategy&design on the design and development of the 2020 FNR Annual Report
Over one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, society can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. This severe global health crisis has shown the valuable contribution that science can make to society. In an unprecedented way, scientists worldwide have collaborated to understand the new coronavirus and develop new approaches to virus detection, epidemiological monitoring and vaccines.
The crisis was a defining moment for research in Luxembourg. All actors joined forces to use the combined expertise of Luxembourg science to tackle the pandemic. The large-scale testing initiative (LST), prevalence and stratification studies (CON-VINCE and Predi-COVID), epidemiological modelling and socio-economic impact assessment are just some of the activities carried out by the Research Luxembourg Task Force, which were partly co-financed by the FNR. It has been clearly demonstrated that public research institutions are now firmly anchored in Luxembourg society and that they generate impact.
“The Luxembourg National Research Fund has largely contributed to these efforts“, explains Marc Schiltz, Secretary–General of the FNR, “both from a financial point of view, where 7.5 MEUR have been mobilised, and through its very active involvement in the Research Luxembourg Task Force, where the FNR has coordinated several working groups.”
The COVID-19 crisis also showed how essential scientific communication is. “In these circumstances“, Marc Schiltz continues, “it has been very helpful that the FNR, over the years, has developed a wide range of scientific communication skills, as well as channels for scientific communication to the general public, which are considered reliable and trustworthy. The experience gained by the FNR over the years in dealing with journalists and policymakers has also been of great importance during this crisis. Over the past twelve months, science.lu has truly become a reference site for scientific communication around COVID-19. In addition, twelve detailed fact-checking articles were published in 2020.”
At the administrative level, the FNR learned to adapt all its work processes to a new situation in a short period of time. Flexible measures were introduced as early as the end of March 2020, to help FNR-funded researchers cope with the difficult situation where many ongoing research projects had to be interrupted due to closures or travel restrictions.
However, 2020 was also the first year in which the FNR implemented the newly defined national research priorities in its funding instruments. In the main project funding programme, CORE, there was an impressive increase (almost 30%) in the number of applications submitted compared to previous years. This shows the vitality of our research system and the relevance of research priorities.
Marc Schiltz concludes: “Every crisis offers its share of opportunities. Learning from this particular period will help us at the FNR to further improve our work and to remain one of the key institutions in the research ecosystem. This ecosystem, which is evolving in an ever-changing environment, needs players who are able and willing to adapt. The FNR has proven to be such a player and will continue, as it has done over the past two decades, to ensure and promote quality research and build bridges to society.“
97.06 million for research projects selected according to the criteria of excellence
In 2020, 191 research projects, 54 science communication projects – for communication between scientists as well as for exchange with society – and 54 doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships were selected for funding6.
1397 international expert assessments were carried out as part of the evaluation and selection process. Of the 781 eligible proposals, 299 were selected for funding, representing an overall success rate of 38.28%. To fund all the projects selected in 2020, the FNR committed €97.06 million.