Researchers across Europe have secured grants from the European Research Council (ERC) for projects including the design of a coastal defence against tsunamis, developing high-tech radiotherapy to treat head-and-neck cancer and using global positioning system technology for real-time monitoring of air pollution.
Helga Nowotny, President of the ERC, said the research, “Will make a difference – for science, for innovation and for society at large.”
The scheme is increasingly popular, with the latest call attracting 3,329 applications, a fifty per cent increase from last year. Applications from women rose to thirty per cent from twenty four per cent last year. “This is very encouraging and augurs well for the future,” Nowotny said.
Starting grants form part of the ERC’s brief to support scientific excellence in Europe and to attract top researchers from around the world. EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said that under Framework Programme 7 the ERC has, “Raised the level of science across Europe. It is funding blue-sky research that is advancing human knowledge, but also producing breakthroughs that could make their way into our daily lives in future.”
Starting grants fund researchers in the early stage of their careers, at least two and not more than seven years after completion of a PhD. Successful applicants receiving funding of up to €2 million, for up to five years.
In the latest call, grants were awarded to researchers of thirty four different nationalities, hosted in 162 European institutions, with each grant holder having on average six team members.
The average age of researchers is about thirty four years. The recipients come from a variety of disciplines, with approximately 44 per cent of successful applications from Physical Sciences and Engineering, nearly 38 per cent from Life Sciences and just over 18 per cent in Social Sciences and Humanities.
For more experienced researchers, Consolidator Grants of up to €2.75 million are available for those with proven potential, and Advanced Grants supporting high-risk pioneering projects are available up to €3.5 million. The ERC has introduced Synergy Grants on a pilot basis to support small groups of researchers working together, and the Proof of Concept programme was introduced allow ERC grantees to explore the commercial potential of their research.
Starting Grants will continue in 2014 under Horizon 2020, the new R&D Framework Programme, in which the ERC will receive seventeen per cent of the €70.2 billion budget.