Six Imperial researchers have won 14 million euros of the EU’s most prestigious funding awards for ‘blue skies’ projects.
Academics, from each faculty, have been awarded funding of up to 2.5 million euros each to further their research in areas including chemistry, diabetes and asthma.
The European Research Council Advanced Grants, worth a total of €653 million, will benefit 269 senior researchers across Europe, giving them a chance to realise their most creative ideas and potentially produce results that will have a major impact on science, society and the economy.
Imperial was one of Europe’s top recipients of funding and was second out of UK institutions.
The grants are part of the EU’s Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020 and provide the resources to ‘continue ground-breaking projects’. Imperial has hosted 93 ERC grants so far.
The ERC announced the following awards:
Professor Andrew Livingston (Department of Chemical Engineering): Advanced nanomembranes for exact polymer production (EXACTYMER) €2,499,814
Professor Iain Colin Prentice (Department of Life Sciences): Re-inventing ecosystem and land-surface models (REALM) €2,499,615
Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga (Institute of Clinical Sciences): Sex differences in intestinal plasticity (IntraGutSex) €2,485,217
Professor Jorge Ferrer (Department of Medicine): Expanding the genetic etiological and diagnostic spectrum of monogenic diabetes mellitus (DecodeDiabetes) €2,243,746
Professor Sebastian Johnston (National Heart and Lung Institute): Mechanisms of adverse effects of beta-agonists in asthma (MaeBAia) €2,499,999
Professor Carol Propper (Business School): Empirical evidence on the impact of the labour market on the production of healthcare and health (HealthcareLabour) €1,487,748
Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga’s ERC Starting grant saw her researching the diversity of the nerve cells around the gut, during which she found the plastic potential of organs during reproduction.
Discussing her research interests, Professor Miguel-Aliaga said: “I have a general interest in organ plasticity, how the internal organs change during development and over their life time.
“Changes in organ size, shape and volume occur in response to different events that happen to the organism such as reproduction.
“I am also interested in understanding how organs differ between males and females.”
Her new ERC Advanced grant entitled ‘Sex differences in intestinal plasticity’ will see Professor Miguel-Aliaga tackle both of these research areas.
Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) Professor Nick Jennings said: “This significant funding award recognises Imperial’s position as a European leader in producing impactful research to benefit society.
“With just one-in-eight projects selected from thousands of proposals, these grants are exceptionally tough to win and only the most promising research is rewarded.
“It’s testament to our research excellence that Imperial is one of the top recipients of these grants in Europe and six of our academics have been successful.
“Our researchers’ abilities to take on the most ambitious challenges, make important discoveries and collaborate with European partners is fundamental to our mission.
“These high quality research projects, from each faculty, will improve our scientific understanding and help realise our innovative ideas.”
The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: “The diversity and boldness of the research in this latest funding round are once again impressive.
“The selected researchers explore the brink of the unknown, the ideal setting to make breakthroughs.
“If the past is any guide to the future, the ERC is set to continue betting on audacious scientific projects – the latest review shows again that over 70% of ERC-funded research led to discoveries and major scientific advances.
“But there are many more bright minds with ambitious ideas in Europe that the ERC could fund if we had more means.
“That’s why the ERC Scientific Council argues for more resources for the future while keeping the strategy of using scientific quality as the only criterion for selection.”
Imperial is urging the government to negotiate a deal which will enable EU-funded researchers to move freely around Europe.
In an interview with Research Fortnight, Vice-Provost Professor Nick Jennings said ‘scientists should be able to get on with science and not be hindered by bureaucracy’.
Imperial is proposing that any participant in EU-funded research projects, or European-collaborative grants sponsored by UK agencies would automatically receive a visa for free movement between Britain and the EU.