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30-04-2019 | Portrait: © 2018 Camilla Colombo; Image: artistic representation of objects in Low Earth Orbit © ESA 2 mins read

Making space a safer place for satellites and spacecraft

Space has a wealth of resources for humanity. Scientific missions enable new discoveries and increase knowledge of our solar system. Satellites orbiting around the Earth provide us with a broad range of services for telecommunications, weather forecasting, marine and air traffic, forest mapping, etc. However, intense space activity comes at a cost both in terms of energy consumption and dangerous space debris produced.

23-10-2018 | © picture 4 mins read

AI all around us

Agnieszka Wykowska is a senior researcher of the Social Cognition in Human-Robot Interaction at the Italian Institute of Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) in Genova, Italy. In 2016 she has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for her project “Intentional Stance for Social Attunement” whose goal is to investigate if humans are ready to engage in social interactions with humanoid robots. Dr Wykowska will present her findings at the ERC's conference Frontier Research and Artificial Intelligence.  

11-07-2018 | Image: ©istockphotos 2 mins read

Mimicking nature to create new super materials

Nature is a major source of inspiration for scientists. ERC grantee Giulia Lanzara is one of them. The unique sensing and shaping abilities of birds, dolphins and other living creatures inspired her to engineer novel multifunctional materials which could make a difference in a wide variety of industrial fields.

18-04-2018 | Portrait:© University of Trento Image: Limpet teeth © Courtesy of A. Barber, University of Portsmouth and N. Pugno, University of Trento 2 mins read

Inspired by nature: bionic spider webs and other super-materials

Metal fatigue and ice-layer accumulation are challenges faced by the aviation industry and prove costly in terms of fuel waste. Sometimes nature can provide solutions to problems such as these. ERC grantee Nicola Pugno combines biological observations with nanotechnology to create some of the most remarkable materials in the world.

27-07-2016 | © picture 2 mins read

The cognitive art of team sports

While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.

25-05-2016 | © picture 2 mins read

Building a career on understanding the minds of others

The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.

02-05-2016 | Research picture: Graffito on a private wall, Janjanbureh Island © Alice Bellagamba 2 mins read

The past and present of slavery: a history in the making

Slavery represents a dark and unclosed page in the history of mankind. Even if legally abolished by all countries of the world, its legacies shape the present in a plurality of ways and often overlap with the phenomena that scholars, activists and policy-makers target as new slaveries. Which are the consequences of slavery after its legal death? Should new forms of labor exploitation and human bondage also be read in this key? Or are they the result of recent economic, political and social transformations?

12-06-2015 | Portrait: © András Málnási-Csizmadia | Image: Illustration of Molecular Tattoo © András Málnási-Csizmadia’s lab 2 mins read

Molecular tattooing for local, targeted drug-delivery

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.

16-05-2013 | © picture 3 mins read

Unbreakable materials on the horizon

Since Leonardo da Vinci, scientists and engineers have investigated how things break or irreversibly deform, with a view to discovering unbreakable materials. This issue is at the core of Stefano Zapperi’s research. In 2011, he received an ERC Advanced grant to explore the response of materials when they are exposed to an external driving force. The long-term outcomes of his research could contribute to enhancing the safety of materials and daily products.