Seven early-career researchers in Ireland win European funding

22 Nov 2022

Prof Killian Hurley of the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. Image: RCSI

The European Research Council has awarded €636m to 408 researchers from across Europe, with recipients at UCD, Trinity, RCSI and University of Galway.

Seven early-career academics in Ireland have been awarded funding from the European Research Council (ERC).

They are part of a cohort of 408 researchers across Europe who have been awarded a total of €636m in ERC Starting Grant funding.

The scheme, which is funded through the EU’s Horizon Europe programme, is designed to help emerging scientists with between two and seven years’ experience after their PhDs to launch their own projects, form their own teams and pursue their research ideas.

“We are proud that we are empowering younger researchers to follow their curiosity,” said European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth Mariya Gabriel in an announcement today (22 November).

“These new ERC laureates bring a remarkable wealth of scientific ideas, they will certainly further our knowledge and some already have practical applications in sight.”

The 408 laureates of the ERC grant competition are based at universities and research centres in 26 countries across Europe, including Germany (81), the UK (70), the Netherlands (40) and France (39). The average funding amount for each researcher was €1.5m.

Four Irish institutions were represented in this year’s ERC Starting Grant awards, with funding going to researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Galway, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD).

Projects that have been funded in Ireland range from neuromuscular-cognitive interactions and lung fibrosis research to 4D bioprinting and moral agency in election campaigns.

Prof Maria Leptin, president of the ERC, said that Europe must – at both the national and EU level – continue to “back and empower its promising talent”.

“We must encourage young researchers who are led by sheer curiosity to go after their most ambitious scientific ideas. Investing in them and their frontier research is investing in our future.”

These are the seven researchers in Ireland who bagged ERC funding:

  • Andrew Daly of the University of Galway is working on a project called MorphoPrint that focuses on 4D-bioprinting shape-morphing tissues using phototunable supramolecular hydrogels
  • Colm Delaney of TCD is working on a project called BIO4D, which is based on bioinspired composite architectures for responsive four-dimensional photonics
  • Elaine Corbett of TCD is working on the Myodecision project aimed at studying neuromuscular-cognitive interactions in sensorimotor decision-making
  • Fangzhe Qiu of UCD is leading a project called Felxi, which aims to find out how law was transmitted and reproduced by scholars, rather than a centralised authority in medieval Europe, by studying late-medieval Irish legal ‘digests’
  • Joseph Lacey of UCD is working on a project called Elect, which explores the moral agency of electoral actors in democracies that have been subject to recent disruptions in the campaign context
  • Kenneth Silver of TCD is working on a project called CMP that is focused on corporate moral progress
  • Killian Hurley of RCSI is conducting research into treatments for the lethal lung condition, pulmonary fibrosis, in a project called STAR-TEL

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic