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How ready are we for the next pandemic? New report analysing UK’s response to COVID-19 says technology is key

The COVID-19 pandemic has been labelled as the largest peacetime emergency that Britain has faced in the last 100 years.

The complexity and scope of the pandemic has required close collaboration between a diverse array of organisations – from emergency services to multiple levels of government, to private and charitable organisations, and an assortment of experts and specialist bodies.

ResilienceDirect – an online private ‘network’ overseen by the Cabinet Office – has been a crucial technology enabling and enhancing communication, coordination, and collaboration between the diverse bodies that were involved in the UK’s COVID-19 response.

Over the course of the COVID-19 response, researchers based at Loughborough University have been studying how ResilienceDirect is utilised in a major incident.

Dr Daniel Sage and Dr Chris Zebrowski with support from Research Assistant Dr Nina Jörden, have now produced the first independent evidence-based report for emergency practitioners, national policymakers, and scholars, to understand how ResilienceDirect shapes emergency collaboration.

The report identifies the vital role that ResilienceDirect has played in enabling communication and collaboration amongst the many agencies involved in the COVID-19 response, plus a number of areas where ResilienceDirect could be better utilised and further developed in order to maximise its capacity to support complex emergency responses in the future.

The report, which concludes with 10 recommendations to support the role of ResilienceDirect in underpinning and enhancing UK resilience, is based on research funded by a UKRI Ideas to Address COVID-19 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The study involved surveying almost 500 ResilienceDirect users and interviewing a diverse selection of users from different agencies and regions.

“This report highlights both the current value of ResilienceDirect to support collaboration and how the technology and its use could be improved in the future”, said Dr Sage and Dr Zebrowski in a joint statement.

“The report is also concerned with developing broader insights into the potential of digital technologies to facilitate emergency collaboration.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that technologies such as ResilienceDirect can become a critical piece of national infrastructure underpinning emergency planning, response, and recovery activity.

“However, ResilienceDirect will need to continue to adapt to fulfill this function in the years ahead.”

"COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to better understand and assess the UK’s capacity to respond to complex emergency events.  We hope this report provides valuable insights that bolster our capacity to respond to pandemics and other complex events in the future."

The ‘ResilienceDirect during Covid-19: understanding and enhancing digital collaboration’ report is available to download via the dedicated ResilienceDirect during COVID Loughborough webpage

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/160

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.