These six Irish-based researchers just won €8.7m in funding

27 Jul 2018

Image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Six talented Irish-based researchers have just secured vital funding for their work as part of the ERC’s Starting Grants for 2018.

Each year, the European Research Council (ERC) issues its Starting Grants to researchers of any nationality based in the EU with between two and seven years of experience since the completion of their PhD.

Worth up to €1.5m per grant, the funding can prove crucial to researchers who are always on the search for financial support to develop their work, potentially leading to major breakthroughs.

In the latest batch, six Irish-based researchers have made the cut, and this will see a total of €8.7m distributed among them.

This represents a big improvement on last year when Ireland won only two grants.

The six researchers include:

Maria Brenner – TechChild – Trinity College Dublin (TCD)

Her project will take an anthropological perspective on the initiation of technology dependence to sustain a child’s life.

Larisa Florea – ChemLife – TCD

Her project will focus on the development of artificial microvehicles with lifelike behaviour.

Emilia Huerta-Sanchez – Archaic Adapt – TCD

Her project will look into better understanding signals from modern, ancient and archaic DNA.

Riona Nic Congail – Yeelp – NUI Galway

Her project will look at youth engagement in European language preservation from the beginning of the 20th century right up until 2020.

Michael Quayle – Dafinet – University of Limerick

His project will look at opinion dynamics in social networks and their implications for computational propaganda in hybrid social networks.

Ted Vaughan – Mult2d – NUI Galway

His project will examine the multiscale mechanics of bone fragility in type 2 diabetes.

Women researchers on the rise

Speaking of her research, Florea said: “The project aims to tackle some of the grand challenges in materials research, by showing that intelligent chemistry, smart design and precise engineering can give enhanced capabilities to soft materials, which have not been achievable to date. This project will enable the creation of soft microstructures, which could navigate, transport cargo, sense and even diagnose.

“For me, it is extremely captivating to give such functions, which we naturally associate with living things, to inanimate materials.”

Of all the applications received by the ERC, only 13pc were funded, with women in research more likely to receive funding than their male counterparts – 13.7pc compared with 12.4pc.

“For the second year in a row, nearly 40pc of Starting grantees are women,” said Prof Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the ERC.

“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.”

Expectations are that the funding will also lead to major job creation as an estimated 1,500 postdocs, PhD students and other staff could be employed to support them.

Updated 4.23pm, 27 July 2018: This article was updated to remove a quote from a past grantee and to include one from Larisa Florea.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic