On 30 June the ERC announced that 190 senior researchers were awarded the Advanced Grants in the latest call (see press release). Media reported extensively on their ambitious projects. For example, Der Standard (Austria) featured Prof. Bietak, who would study the mystery of Hyksos, the tribe which took over the Egyptian throne in 17th century BC, The Irish Times wrote about Prof. Holm, who received funding to study the impact of "fish revolution" in the 1500s, and El Pais (Spain) interviewed Prof. Puig, who was developing high-temperature superconducting materials. One grant holder will dive into the world's deepest sea abyss, the Mariana Trench, to explore the life 11km underwater – you can read about it in Phys.org. Another scientist will climb tropical treetops to observe insects, reported Radio Praha. In total, the results of the call were covered in 22 countries and in the international press.
ERC in the Press
A research team led by ERC Advanced grantee Prof. Jeremy Henley has studied the role a mutation associated with autism and epilepsy plays in impairing brain nerve cells to connect with each other. The findings of the research could provide a new target for treating neurological disorders.
Each of us has, in our nose, about six million smell receptors of around four hundred different types. The distribution of these receptors varies from person to person -- so much so that each person's sense of smell may be unique. ERC Advanced Grantee Prof. Noam Sobel has developed a method of precisely characterising an individual's sense of smell, which he calls an "olfactory fingerprint." Potential applications could range from early diagnosis of degenerative brain disorders to a non-invasive test for matching donor organs.
On 16 June, the ERC reached a milestone with its 5000th top researcher funded: Dr Iva Tolić, a leading Croatian cell biophysicist. The celebrations in Brussels were reflected in a favourable coverage in the media. There was a BBC World Service debate with Commissioner Carlos Moedas, ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and grant holders Dr Iva Tolić and Dr Veerle Huvenne about the future of European science. Science Business highlighted the ERC's achievements so far, and The Guardian used the celebration to remind UK scientists of the dangers of voting to leave the EU. In Dr Iva Tolić's home country, both newspapers (Večernji List, among many) and national TV RTL featured the ERC, mentioning that its grants are comparable to the Oscars.
After an all-night discussion, the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament agreed to exclude the ERC from contributing from its budget to the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI). According to the ERC President, this decision gives a clear sign that frontier research has an important role to play in Europe.