Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council (ERC), visited Warwick on 13 June 2018. Professor Bourguignon, who was attending a Russell Group meeting being held at Warwick met academics from Warwick and the University of Birmingham who have been awarded grants by the ERC.
The meeting opened with presentations by Professor Matthew Gibson and Professor Alice Mah, from Warwick, and by Dr Konstantinos Nikolopoulos from the University of Birmingham. They outlined the groundbreaking projects for which they had received funding and went on to describe the ways in which ERC funding had allowed them to carry out highly risky research which would not have been attractive to other funders.
Matthew Gibson described how his research was using extremophiles to improve donor tissue cryopreservation to reduce the wastage of donated blood and organs and to save lives.
Alice Mah told Professor Bourguignon how ERC funding had allowed her to undertake original research into the environmental impact of the global petrochemical industry, citing case studies in the USA and China.
Konstantinos Nikolopoulos described how his ERC award allowed the exploration of novel methods to study the properties of the Higgs boson, and the connection to the mass generation mechanism for matter particles.
After the presentations, Professor Bourguignon answered questions about the role of the ERC, the rules of the ERC’s funding schemes and about Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020. Colleagues from Warwick and Birmingham spoke of the benefits of ERC funding, including the scope it gave them to build research teams and the fact that it allowed relatively junior academics to undertake highly ambitious ‘bottom up’ research over a five years.