We are committed to supporting our communities, partners and the global effort to combat COVID-19. The University of Exeter is dedicated to shaping new local, national and global systems to combat COVID-19. We are already showing our mettle in supporting the NHS, working in the community to help organisations and individuals, contributing to the national genomics programme on COVID-19, and unrelenting in pushing our expertise and values in the world.
Many members of the University community are making important contributions. Our students, colleagues and alumni are working tirelessly to support communities at this difficult time.
For instance, the Emergency Assistance Fund was set-up and launched on 1 April 2020 to provide financial support to students facing hardship due to the coronavirus crisis, and it now has double the funds thanks to support from alumni donations and to long-term supporter Santander Universities. A total of £250,000 was added to the fund so that students can be supported during this challenging time.
Since its launch, 345 applications have been made for assistance, requesting around £327,000 in funding. So far, 242 assessments have been approved and around £161,438 disbursed. Claimants are reporting hardship due to a variety of factors such as job losses, additional accommodation pressures relating to travel bans or isolation requirements; and the impact of illness on themselves or family members. Undergraduate students make up around two thirds of all applicants and initial analysis shows mature, BAME and Disabled students are being particularly impacted by the crisis.
One anonymous student recipient said: “I cannot quite express how much of a difference this is going to make. All I can say again is thank you so much. It is so wonderful that the university has put these measures in place - I was quite scared about how I was going to manage financially over these next few months, but this grant will allow me to survive whilst I figure out my next steps.”
In addition to this, a funding appeal was launched in March 2020 to help fast-track the development of a “pocket laboratory” that carries out quick, accurate and cost-effective blood tests that could revolutionise how health professionals track, trace and monitor the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19. The handheld device, called Attomarker, connects to a smartphone, and uses innovative new technology to analyse a finger-prick of blood within minutes.
Thanks to generous donations from alumni and the University community we raised more than £119,150 as part of the appeal. This enabled the research team, led by Professor Andrew Shaw, in collaboration with Professor Chris Hyde at Exeter’s Medical School, to carry out the 12-week testing to collect the data to validate the test. They were hosted by Professor Jonathan Edgeworth at St Thomas’s Centre for Clinical Infection and Diagnostics, one of the technology assessment centres contributing to the government’s response to the pandemic.
From this trial we have learned the point at which antibodies develop and how long they last, we can identify which convalescent patients have blood with enough antibodies that can be used to help patients who are taking longer to recover, and we can identify patients who have had the virus unknowingly. We can therefore help return self-isolating staff to work on the frontline. You can read more about the appeal and findings online.
The University of Exeter’s Student Startup team also launched a new funding initiative, designed to support innovative projects during the pandemic called the COVID-19 Startup Support Fund. The fund is supported by Santander UK and Research England, and gives graduate entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £2,000 to support projects that respond to some of the challenges caused by the pandemic. These could include innovating their current business model, developing new products or supporting initiatives to reach out and engage with new audiences. The scheme has already awarded its first four grants, to PaddleBoat Theatre CIC, Jubel , Sancho’s and Paddle Logger.
Emily Davies, SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Manager says: “We are immensely proud of our community and the success’ that many of our graduate entrepreneurs and startups have gone on to. During these unprecedented times, we hope that these Grants, along with ongoing access to advice and support, will help ensure that those business’ can weather this storm and continue on their entrepreneurial journey.”
Santander has also recently donated a £25,000 gift to further support the Emergency Assistance Fund and the COVID-19 Start Up Support Fund which will increase the impact and reach they are able to have. Matt Hutnell, Director at Santander Universities said that “We’re committed to making a positive impact as we navigate this new reality together as businesses, communities, institutions, families and individuals. Now more than ever, we’re all in this together.” We are enormously grateful for their support which makes a huge difference.
Our alumni community have also been volunteering their time to help in the Coronavirus response in several ways. From creating online resources to help parents with children at home, sharing their experiences and tips on coping with the situation from others, donating to fund critical research and not to mention our wonderful alumni medics who are working on the front line of the healthcare response. You can read more about this on our dedicated webpage.