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European Research Council awards €3.8 million to two Warwick-led projects

  • University of Warwick researchers receive EU funding worth a total €3.8 million
  • Projects to be investigated include low temperature storage and transport of biologics; and new physics beyond the Standard Model

Two projects led by University of Warwick researchers are to benefit from a share of €600 million funding from the European Union.

How will climate change shape the Earth’s surface? What are the long-term health effects of food additives? How can online tools change political advocacy and what does this mean for democracy? These are just some of the questions that researchers from around Europe have proposed to explore, and will now be able to, thanks to this newly-awarded EU funding.

The European Research Council today (10 December) announced the recipients of its latest Consolidator Grant competition: 301 top scientists and scholars across Europe. Funding for these researchers, part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, is worth in total €600 million. With this support, the new grantees will have a chance to build up their teams and have far-reaching impact.

Two projects led by the University of Warwick are to benefit to a total of over €3.8 million.

Professor Matthew Gibson from the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School.Professor Matthew Gibson from the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School has received €2 million to investigate new methods to store and transport Biologics. He said: “Biologics are rapidly emerging therapeutics based on cells or proteins and a large number of these must be stored cryopreserved (frozen) to ensure they retain their function when they reach the patient. Current methods to protect biologics use organic solvents or sugars; we will develop new polymer materials that can stabilise against cold stress by controlling the formation of ice (nucleation), preventing protein aggregation and stabilising cell membranes.

“ERC funding will enable us to take a holistic approach where cell biologists, protein biochemists and synthetic chemists can work in a single team to address this challenge, which is not possible with normal smaller projects.”

Dr Mika Vesterinen from the Department of PhysicsDr Mika Vesterinen from the Department of Physics has been awarded over €1.8 million for a project to advance our knowledge of the fundamental physical forces of nature, using one of the particle detectors at the CERN facility. He said: “The Standard Model makes several precise predictions that are yet to be matched by experimental measurements of the same precision. The ERC funding allows me to build a team of experts that will confront this problem with innovative high-precision analyses of data from the LHCb experiment at CERN.

“A significant disagreement between our measurements and the predictions would indicate new physics beyond the Standard Model, which is the holy grail of particle physics.”

Professor Pam Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, said: “I am delighted that the European Research Council is supporting cutting-edge research here at the University of Warwick. The two projects that this funding supports demonstrate the breadth of challenges that our scientists aim to tackle, from methods to support for new therapies for patients to the most fundamental building blocks of our universe. I look forward to seeing these projects progress.”

On this occasion, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: "Knowledge developed in these new projects will allow us to understand the challenges we face at a more fundamental level, and may provide us with breakthroughs and innovations that we haven’t even imagined. The EU’s investment in frontier research is an investment in our future, which is why it is so important that we reach an agreement on an ambitious Horizon Europe budget for the next multiannual budget. More available research funding would also allow us to create more opportunities everywhere in the EU - excellence should not be a question of geography."

ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, whose mandate ends on 31 December after six years in office, commented: “I have had the immense privilege of seeing thousands of bright minds across our continent receive the trust and backing to go after their most daring ideas. It has been an exhilarating experience through countless meetings with many of them in person, listening to their stories and being inspired by them. As it’s about top frontier research, it comes as no surprise that an overwhelming number of them already made breakthroughs that will continue to contribute greatly to meeting the challenges ahead. As I bid farewell to an organisation that will always remain close to my heart, I am once more highly impressed when I see this latest set of grantees funded by the European Research Council. That the ERC empowers them makes me proud to be European!”

The grantees will carry out their projects at universities and research centres in 24 different countries across Europe, with Germany (52 grants), the United Kingdom (50), France (43) and Netherlands (32) as leading locations. In this competition, researchers of 37 nationalities received funding, amongst them are notably Germans (55 grants), French (33), Dutch (28) and Italians (23). The research projects proposed by the new grantees cover a wide range of topics in physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, as well as social sciences and humanities. (See project examples)

The ERC received 2,453 research proposals this time, out of which approximately 12% will be funded. 31% of grants were awarded to female applicants. This new round of grants should create around 2,000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff working in the grantees' research team. (See more statistics)

List of all selected researchers in alphabetical order

Lists of selected researchers by domain (in alphabetical order):

· Physical Sciences and Engineering

· Life Sciences

· Social Sciences and Humanities

Photographs and images available to download:

Professor Matthew Gibson - https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/december2019/matthew_gibson_chemistry_and_wms.jpg

Dr Mika Vesterinen - https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/december2019/mika_vesterinen.jpg

Image of the LHCb at CERN - https://cds.cern.ch/record/1178706

For potential applicants

Researchers who would like to compete for an ERC Consolidator Grant have until 4 February 2020 to apply for the next round of funding. Visit https://erc.europa.eu/funding/consolidator-grants for application details.

Background

The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries. The funding (average of €2 million per grant), is provided for up to five years and mostly covers the employment of researchers and other staff to consolidate the grantees' teams.

About the ERC

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between grantees' pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

To date, the ERC has funded more than 9,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers, and over 50,000 postdocs, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams. The ERC strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. Key global research funding bodies, in the United States, China, Japan, Brazil and other countries, have concluded special agreements to provide their researchers with opportunities to temporarily join ERC grantees' teams.

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. The ERC President is Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The overall ERC budget from 2014 to 2020 is more than €13 billion, as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, for which the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel is responsible.

More information

ERC website

Horizon 2020

ERC press contacts Marcin Mońko Press and Communication adviser Phone: +32 (0) 2 296 66 44 erc-press@ec.europa.eu

Eilish Brault

Press and Communication adviser

Phone: +32 (0)2 295 24 71

erc-press@ec.europa.eu

10 December 2019

For interviews or information on the University of Warwick projects contact:

Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)

Press & Media Relations

University of Warwick

Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk 

Tel: +44 (0)24 761 50868

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863