Why is the world so green? What can we eat to prevent dementia? Are our eyes really the windows to our personalities? 403 talented early career researchers have been awarded European Research Council grants to answer such questions. Scientists will benefit from EUR603 million in total and up to EUR1.5 million each, to create their own research teams and conduct pioneering projects. The grants, are part of the ‘excellent science’ pillar of the EU’s current Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
On this occasion, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “In addition to supporting early stage European researchers, the ERC Starting Grants also help enrich the European research field by attracting and retaining foreign scientists in Europe. More than one in ten grantees come from outside the EU or its associated countries. Europe is open to the world!”
Enrich the European research field
The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: “With 3170 applications, 2018 Starting Grants were in very high demand. In spite of the additional relaunch of the ERC Synergy Grants, we were still able to award over 400 Starting Grants in this round. For the second year in a row, nearly 40% of Starting grantees are women. Regarding geographic spread, we note the number of successful applicants who will be based in the Netherlands has grown considerably since last year. We are also pleased to see an improvement of the success rate of applicants whose research will be carried out in Central and Eastern Europe – while the number of these applicants remains low. Scientific talent and ambitious ideas are to be found all over Europe and the ERC aims to give them stimulus wherever they may be.”
The new grantees’ curiosity-led research covers a diverse range of topics. In Germany a grantee will shed light on what makes our cells uniquely human, as opposed to ape. A scientist based in Sweden will investigate ultrafast events, taking one quadrillionth of a second. Another scholar in France will challenge the current theories of how Japan became a global industrial power. Once again, almost 13% of applications were funded. As also occurred in the last funding round, female researchers who applied had a slightly higher success rate (13.7%) than their male counterparts (12.4%).
ERC Starting Grant for Luxembourg researcher
Anja Leist from the University of Luxembourg received one of the Starting Grants for her project “Cognitive Aging: From Educational Opportunities to Individual Risk Profiles.” In 2017, Anja attended a training workshop on ERC organised by Luxinnovation. She submitted her proposal in late 2017 and was selected in the first round. In order to prepare the second stage, where candidates are invited for an interview to present their projects, the University organised a mock interview panel in which the EU funding team of Luxinnovation participated. The objective was to simulate the interview as closely as possible, to ask questions and to give feedback on the presentation.
Anja Leist is the 10th researcher from Luxembourg to have successfully received such a prestigious grant, putting Luxembourg among the top performing countries in the EU. “Anja is a talented scientist and this ERC grant will significantly impact her future career, proving that she is at the very top of her field. It was a pleasure working with her and I wish her all the best for her future research,” says Charles Betz, Advisor – European Funding and contact point for ERC at Luxinnovation.