EU sets up €100m fund to tackle health threats

EU sets up €100m fund to tackle health threats

The EU has set aside a €100 million block of financing for small- and medium-sized enterprises working on projects that could tackle public health threats, including emerging pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.

The new fund – dubbed HERA Invest – is a top-up to the InvestEU programme that supports sustainable investment, innovation, and job creation in the EU. It will focus on “innovative solutions” that will increase the EU’s preparedness for cross-border health threats.

The fund will be run by the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which was set up in 2021 after it became apparent that the piecemeal response of EU member states to the COVID-19 pandemic was inadequate.

The money is earmarked for SMEs working on pathogens with epidemic or pandemic potential, ways to combat antimicrobial resistance, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats “originating from accidental or deliberate release,” according to a joint statement from the European Commission and European Investment Bank.

Having identified these as the most pressing threats through a consultation process that was carried out in 2022, HERA is now working on a list of medical countermeasures, as well as the process for “monitoring, research and development, production, procurement, and stockpiling” them.

“Currently, European companies find it difficult to access sufficient public and private funding for the development and scaling up of cutting-edge solutions in health and life sciences,” said the statement. “Innovation is needed to respond to priority health threats, such as pathogens with high pandemic potential or resistance to antibiotics.”

HERA Invest will provide funding to SMEs in the form of venture loans that will cover up to 50% of a project’s costs. Companies applying for the funding must have already raised equity from professional investors, and be able to show that they have a sustainable business model and solid corporate governance in place.

The investment vehicle is one of five activities set for HERA’s 2023 workplan, along with establishing an IT system to coordinate its operations, continuing support for current countermeasure projects including next-generation COVID-19 vaccines, reserving manufacturing capacity for vaccines, and developing its stockpiling strategy.

The agency’s 2023 budget includes nearly €475 million to support R&D into countermeasures and over €650 million to support their provision.

SMEs interested in the programme can find more information here (PDF).