Researchers will get funding to look into business opportunities, patent discoveries or build prototypes
The European Research Council (ERC) is to give out 76 proof of concept (PoC) grants worth €150,000 each to promising researchers whose scientific discoveries could be brought closer to the market.
The 76 grants were part of the third and final round of call for applications in 2019. Last year, the ERC funded 200 PoC projects, out of 498 proposals, a total of €30 million.
As in previous years, a majority of grants went to countries in western Europe: 34 to the UK, 20 to Italy, 18 to France, 16 to Spain and 15 to Germany. Researchers in Switzerland and Israel got 13 and 10 grants respectively.
Central and eastern European researchers are better represented than in the past, but participation is still low. Czechia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all won grants in this round, but only one or two projects per country were successful.
The projects are in different fields. One project in Italy aims to develop a safer and cheaper treatment alternative for patients with autoimmune conditions such as arthritis. In the UK, a researcher hopes to come up with a new way of measuring if autistic children really benefit from special education programmes, while an Irish scientist will work on ways to make cheaper and more accurate optical sensors needed in manufacturing and healthcare.
Since the scheme started in 2011, over 1,000 projects have received proof of concept funding.
In 2019, the ERC launched a “Virtual Venture Fair” to boost the transfer of knowledge from ERC-funded research to the wider world. The online tool is expected to help PoC grantees connect to investors who can provide finance and support.