Irish team to lead €10.4m ERC project assessing marine impact on humans

5 Nov 2020

Image: © marchello74/

Ireland has received its first ever Synergy Grant from the European Research Council thanks to two researchers from TCD.

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the winners of 34 grants as part of the Synergy Grant scheme, including €10.4m in funding for an Irish-led project. The award is the one of the largest single ERC investments to date in a frontier research project involving Ireland-based researchers.

The 4-Oceans project will be led by Prof Poul Holm and Prof Francis Ludlow of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and will see collaboration with researchers from the UK and Portugal.

They will set out to assess the importance of marine life to human societies during the last 2,000 years, with a focus on understanding the consequences of marine resource exploitation for societal development.

Adding historical dimension

“There are many avenues of research that we look forward to pursuing, but the most important goal of the project is to conduct the first ever globalised evaluation of the role of marine resources for societal development across two millennia, and thereby advance our understanding of the role of ocean life in human history,” Ludlow said.

“Long-term data and an understanding of changes in ecosystems and human behaviour over many centuries is critical to informing the continued development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Decade for the Oceans, from which the historical dimension is still missing.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, congratulated the TCD researchers on their role in securing the grant.

“ERC awards represent the summit of frontier research excellence and I am delighted that Ireland is sharing in European success across all career stages with Irish awardees amongst Starting, Consolidator, Advance and now Synergy ERC Grant holders announced this year,” he said.

A ‘Radical’ project

Meanwhile, a University College Cork-led research project has received €3.2m in European funding to develop a more cost effective way to measure air pollution. Led by Prof Justin Holmes, the ‘Radical’ project includes partners in academia and industry across five different European countries.

The project, which will run for four years from 1 November 2020, was in the top 10 proposals submitted to the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme organised by the EU and is only the second proposal of its kind to be coordinated from Ireland.

Commenting on the funding, Holmes said: “Radicals are reactive species that drive chemical processes in the atmosphere, influencing climate change, the formation of acid rain and driving the production of photochemical smogs, all detrimental to human health and the environment.

“The aim of our project is to develop a new and cheap technology for measuring radicals in the atmosphere that can be easily implemented and deployed worldwide.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic