Seven Irish researchers score EU starting grants

5 Sep 2023

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The European Research Council has awarded €628m to 400 researchers from across Europe, with recipients at UCC, UCD, University of Galway and Trinity.

Hundreds of researchers at the beginning of their careers have been given a funding boost by the European Research Council (ERC), including seven from Ireland.

The ERC has awarded 400 Starting Grants to support cutting-edge research in a wide range of fields and help researchers form teams and pursue their best ideas. The awards amount to €628m in funding.

Among the successful applicants are two researchers from University College Cork (UCC), two from University College Dublin (UCD), two from the University of Galway and one researcher from Trinity College Dublin. The Irish projects cover various topics, such as predicting tumour growth, understanding spore-forming gut bacteria and learning more about exoplanets.

One of the successful Irish applicants is Dr Fiona Freeman of UCD, who was one of the 35 people on this year’s MIT Innovators Under 35 list. The other Irish researchers are Dr James Gahan and Dr Eoin McEvoy of University of Galway, Dr Donal Hassett and Dr Hilary Browne of UCC, Dr Jennifer Keating of UCD and Dr Luca Matrá of Trinity.

The funding is part of Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation, with a budget of more than €95bn to fund scientific endeavours across EU member states.

A total of 44 nationalities were represented among the successful applicants, who will carry out their projects in universities and research centres across 24 countries in Europe. Germany will receive the highest number of hosted projects, followed by France, the Netherlands and the UK.

The competition attracted about 2,690 proposals, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchers from around the world, according to the ERC. The grants are expected to create more than 2,600 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff.

“It is part of our mission to give early-career talent the independence to pursue ambitious curiosity-driven research that can shape our future,” said ERC president Prof Maria Leptin. “Congratulations to all winners and good luck on your path to discovery.”

Women researchers received 43pc of the total grants, which is an increase from 39pc last year. The ERC said its Starting Grants programme has attracted more than 58,000 submissions since 2007.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic