Spotlight on ERC projects
In June 2015, the ERC celebrates its 5000th grant to a leading researcher in Europe. This is the occasion to present some of the ERC ground-breaking projects at the frontier of knowledge in life sciences; physical sciences and engineering; and social sciences and humanities. These projects are just a snapshot of the 5000 ERC grants that have been pursued in more than 600 institutions in 32 countries across Europe. To date, 40 000 publications in top scientific journals have derived from these projects. The ERC expects that its grants will help bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries - the kind that can form the basis of future industries, markets, and social innovations.
Salamanders: unearthing the mystery of limb regeneration
Cellular regeneration allows wound healing in humans but in other vertebrates such as salamanders, it goes a step further: they can regenerate their limbs in their full complexity of bones, nerves, muscle and skin and can do it over and over again. Prof. Elly Tanaka studies these amazing capacities and, mirroring the process, has successfully grown a piece of mouse spinal cord in vitro.
Adolescence is marked by significant physical, cognitive and socio-emotional changes. Despite these well-known developments, the neural mechanisms supporting this phase of growth in the life of human beings remain unknown. Prof. Eveline Crone has carried out for the first time a longitudinal study to investigate the brain processes underlying the behaviour of teenagers.
The Sun provides a steady source of power that could make solar energy a sustainable alternative to conventional sources of energy, provided that technological advances can actually reduce energy production costs. Prof. Michael Grätzel modified the composition of dye-sensitized solar cells to significantly increase their efficiency, including for indoor use. His result laid the ground for paradigm shifts that could revolutionise solar cells technology.
Most of our actions can have an impact on the environment, be it minor, long-lasting or simply irreversible. But how can this effect be measured, avoided, predicted? What are the specificities of long-term risks and how can collective decisions be taken effectively to tackle those threats?
Faster, greener and more sustainable: our world is thirsty for innovative processes that meet these demanding criteria. While natural resources can offer part of the solution, the biggest challenge lies in cleaning-up chemical synthesis. Prof. Georgios Vasilikogiannakis and his team have been looking for answers.
Music has been a vital part of human cultures for millennia, and today it continues to evolve, taking vastly different forms around the world. Proceeding from the rich diversity of human music-making, Prof. Georgina Born has been investigating its transformation in the current digital era.
Significant changes in woodland vegetation pose a long-term threat to native flora and fauna. To understand the functioning of current ecosystems, we need detailed knowledge on management history and on the driving forces of historical forest changes.
Dr Málnási-Csizmadia focuses on enzymes, proteins essential for body functions, and the largely unexplored intricate mechanisms underlying their activity. His recent findings could open the way to a ground-breaking development in pharmacology, especially in targeted cancer therapy.
More than 95% of our universe comes in the mysterious form of dark matter and dark energy that we can neither explain nor directly detect. Dr Catherine Heymans leads a team of researchers who were the first to “map” dark matter on the largest of scales. She now uses her research to confront Einstein’s theory of general relativity in an attempt to explain the nature of dark energy.
Prevention and early detection largely determine the outcome of most cancers. Prof. Päivi Peltomäki studies how tumours arise and progress, with a view to identifying biomarkers of our susceptibility to developing cancer. With the ERC grant, the team has created a single-step, early diagnosis kit for colorectal cancer.
Drylands cover 41% of the Earth’s land surface and support some 38% of the human population for goods and services. However, because of their aridity, they are highly vulnerable to global environmental changes. Prof. Fernando T. Maestre studies how biodiversity enhances the ability of drylands to maintain their essential functions and their ecosystems worldwide.
What do the Velvet revolution, the transitions in Baltic countries in the 1990s and the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul have in common? Prof. Donatella Della Porta is leading an ambitious project to compare the most relevant democratization processes led by social movements of the last 25 years.