03 Sep 2008   |   News

ERC makes advanced grant announcements

The European Research Council has announced the winners in the physical and social sciences categories of its first €517 million round of Advanced Grants.

ERC President Fotis Kafatos: “The quality of the proposals submitted is really excellent.”

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the winners in the physical and social sciences categories of its first €517 million round of Advanced Grants, with grants in the third category – life sciences and medicine – due to be published this month.

UK-based universities and institutes led the list of awards in physical science and engineering, picking up 19 of the 105 grants. Second is France with 13, then Switzerland with nine. Germany, the most populous country in Europe and home to some of the most distinguished academic institutions won just eight awards, the same as Holland.

The ERC also awarded 44 advanced grants in the field of social sciences and humanities. Again, the UK and France bagged the most, 10 and eight respectively.

For the first call for ERC Advanced Grants, 2,167 proposals were submitted in total, 766 in life sciences and medicine, 997 in physical sciences and engineering and 404 in social science and humanities. This is considerably fewer than 9,000-plus applications the ERC received for its Starter grants last year.

The applicants for Advanced Grants represent 50 nationalities and are linked to host institutions in 36 different countries. Only 14 per cent of applicants are women. The average age is 52 years, reflecting the target group of the ERC Advanced Grant scheme, that is, established research leaders.

The President of the ERC, Fotis Kafatos, said getting fewer applications for Advanced Grants was not an issue. “Limiting measures were taken by the ERC Scientific Council after the overwhelming mass of applications received for the first ERC call.” Overall, said Kafatos, “the quality of the proposals submitted is really excellent, but he added, “We are aware that the relatively low proportion of women applicants is a general problem in European research, especially in the target group of established researchers. This is a concern which the ERC will continue to address at every level.”

The ERC has earmarked €4 billion for advanced grants over the next six years in its effort to boost cutting edge scientific research in Europe. The size of each five-year long grant wasn't revealed.

Science Business Network members which feature in the list of successful applicants for advanced grants physical science and engineering projects include Imperial College London, TU Delft (Holland), ETH-Zürich (Switzerland), Warwick University (UK), Cambridge University (UK), Politecnico Milan and Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), winning 12 of the 105 awards between them.

ETH–Zürich won three grants: Professor Frederic Merkt's research entitled “Cold Rydbergs – photoionization, electronic spectroscopy and electrostatic trapping”; Professor Willem Frederik van Gunsteren’s work, entitled “Development of multi-scale molecular model, force fields and computer software for biomolecular simulation”; and professor Atac Imamoglu’s “Quantum optics using nanostructures: for many-body physics to quantum information processing”.

Imperial College picked up two grants: Professor Thomas Welton’s project: “Mixing ionic liquids”, and Professor Sergei Kazarian’s research into enhancing microfabricated devices with chemical imaging.

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