Four researchers in Ireland win grants from €500m ERC fund

22 Apr 2021

Image: © vpanteon/

The European Research Council awarded grants to more than 200 researchers across Europe as part of its 2020 Advanced Grants competition.

Four Ireland-based researchers are among the winners of the latest grant competition from the European Research Council, worth more than €500m.

The 2020 Advanced Grants competition awarded a total of 209 leading researchers across Europe with funding that will allow them to advance their work.

Winning research includes studies on the links between obesity and pancreatic cancer, threats from wildlife viruses, brain-inspired neural network computer chips, and new ways for architects to design the buildings of the future.

The four researchers based in Ireland to receive funding are Jennifer McElwain, Seamus Martin and Daniel Kelly from Trinity College Dublin and Kathleen James-Chakraborty from University College Dublin.

Trinity’s provost, Patrick Prendergast, said it’s a great achievement for Trinity to win three of the highly competitive grants.

“These latest awards, which will support research in the fields of botany, immunity and bioengineering, showcase the diversity of world-leading research taking place at Trinity,” he said.

McElwain is a professor of botany in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences. She will lead the Terraform project, which aims to investigate how plant life and the evolution of plant characteristics or ‘traits’ over the past 300m years has influenced large-scale processes such as the hydrological cycle and weathering.

Martin is a professor of medical genetics in Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology. He will lead the DeSTRESS project, which aims to understand the ‘smouldering inflammation’ implicated in chronic conditions, such as cancer, obesity, neurodegeneration and diabetes.

Kelly is professor of tissue engineering in Trinity and a principal investigator at Amber, the SFI research centre for advanced materials. He will lead the 4D-Boundaries project, which will leverage emerging 3D bioprinting technologies to provide precisely controlled physical and biochemical signals to cells to engineer structurally and mechanically functional musculoskeletal tissues.

James-Chakraborty is a professor of art history at University College Dublin. She will head up the Expanding Agency project, which examines women, race and the global dissemination of modern architecture.

This is the final ERC call under Horizon 2020, which will make way for Horizon Europe, the largest ever funding instrument for research and innovation in Europe.

ERC president Prof Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said the fierce competition in the latest competition meant that only 8pc of candidates were successful.

“Many outstanding researchers with innovative ideas passed the excellence threshold but were left unfunded due to budget constraints – another motivation for the national or regional levels to support these great projects,” he said.

Researchers who would like to compete for an ERC Advanced Grant have from 20 May to 31 August 2021 to apply for the next round of funding. More information about funding and applications can be found on the ERC’s website.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic