ERC breathes life into 11 new projects
Eleven research projects have been selected as the winners of the European Research Council's (ERC) Synergy Grant. Of the 11 projects selected in this call, 5 projects are in the Physical Sciences and Engineering domain, 4 in the Life Sciences, and 2 in the Social Sciences and Humanities. The total budget for this is EUR 126 million, which means that each Synergy Grant is worth on average EUR 11.5 million and each project brings together 2 to 4 Principal Investigators. This time, through these 11 grants, 38 excellent scientists are being supported.
Over the years the ERC has made its mark on European research, and as a result of this and its prestigious profile it received more than 700 applications for its latest grant scheme. As opposed to other grants which focus on bringing together a number of research organisations to form a consortium, the Synergy Grant targets individual investigators whose complementary skills, knowledge and resources enable them to take risks and address questions, which push the boundaries of frontier research in novel ways. Only a limited part of the overall ERC budget is used for this initiative.
'The ERC Synergy Grant provides a unique opportunity for outstanding scientists to explore jointly formulated research questions, which take them beyond 'normal', even if otherwise excellent, science,' commented the President of the ERC, Professor Helga Nowotny.
In her announcement on the awards she emphasised how the funding brought researchers together. 'It aims to bring together the right kind of people at the right time, in the right configuration, to work on the right kind of problem. We decided to introduce the Synergy Grant for two calls with a limited budget. This grant scheme gives researchers a lot of freedom to work together in new ways. Once researchers have understood this, we would expect some more radical proposals for the second call. We will assess the success of this scheme by the end of next year.'
One recipient of the Synergy Grant is Professor Konstantin Novoselov, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Currently based at the University of Manchester, he was awarded the grant together with Professor Andrea Ferrari from the University of Cambridge, and Professor Vladimir Falko, University of Lancaster for the Hetero2D project.
Speaking on the Synergy Grant, Professor Novoselov said, 'The award of the Synergy Grant is an exciting development for a research group like ours. We bet on the high-risk idea that by combining the properties of several, one-atom-thick materials into a single three-dimensional structure (called 'heterostructure'), we would create a new class of materials with predetermined properties and multiple functionalities. You might think that building materials layer by layer is like science fiction. But if we succeed, this new combination of known materials, the two-dimensional (2D) atomic crystals, built layer by layer, will offer an amazing range of applications and devices, essential to Europe's future industry like photodetectors, solar cells, transistors and other optical, photonic and electronic components.'
Professor Dr Corinne L. Hofman also won a grant together with three other researchers for the Nexus1492 project. Professor Dr Hofman spoke about the impact the grant will have on their research: 'The unique synergy of four researchers and their international team of archaeologists, social, natural and computer scientists, and heritage experts is the best possible configuration to tackle the history of the Amerindians. The mixed competences of the team should help us to investigate the impact of colonisers in the Caribbean region and the first interactions between the New and the Old World, in a completely new way. We thus hope to reassess the Caribbean histories and legacies of the intercultural Amerindian-European-African dynamics in a more global perspective.'
Professor Christofer Toumazou and Professor Sir Stephen Bloom from the Imperial College London were also selected for a Synergy Grant for their i2MOVE project. They stated: 'Our respective expertise in electrical and electronic engineering as well as in obesity, diabetes and endocrinology are truly complementary. By joining forces, we will contribute to develop a novel treatment to cure obesity. Our i2MOVE project aims at studying the vagus nerve function and at developing neural stimulation that mimics the anorectic response of the vagus nerve to ingestion of food.'
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Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Scientific Research