Scientific research bids earn €10M of EU funding

Highly prestigious and competitive awards funded by the European Union to support scholars in pursuing ground breaking research have been made to five Edinburgh academics.

Scientists looking through microscope

The European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants will support the recipients to build their own teams and tackle vital scientific questions. 

The University secured €10M in funding, making it the joint second most successful institution in the UK for attracting the esteemed grants. 

Quality research 

The ERC’s mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support academics in identifying new opportunities and directions in any field. 

ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to mid-career researchers of any nationality with more than seven years’ experience since PhD completion, and a scientific track record showing outstanding promise. 

Four of the Edinburgh awardees are in the College of Science and Engineering and one is in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. 

Gold standard 

ERC awards are internationally recognised as a gold standard of excellence.

Researchers have freedom of how the grants are used. This ensures the funds can be channelled into new and promising areas of frontier research that are wholly driven by the investigator. 

This funding not only empowers bright minds from across Europe to pursue their most ambitious ideas at a critical stage of their careers, but also helps train the youngest generation of researchers as members of their ERC teams. To prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, Europe must stick to the vision of investing in frontier research, which has proved time and again its crucial added value.

Professor Jean-Pierre BourguignonERC President

Successful projects 

The grant awardees from Edinburgh seek to address complex scientific questions in their projects. 

Amy Buck, of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, will investigate how gastrointestinal parasites use a novel form of RNA communication to regulate the gut epithelium – the tissue that lines the intestines – and to develop strategies to block the communication mechanism during infection. 

Steven Spoel, also of the School of Biological Sciences, plans to unravel how plant immune systems reprogramme the transcriptome - the full range of messenger RNA, or mRNA molecules expressed by an organism – to establish wide ranging, durable immunity. 

Stewart McWilliams, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, will explore how energy is transported from the high pressure and temperature conditions of the Earth’s core to the biosphere on the surface. He will unpick the consequences of this transfer for Earth’s evolution and its present dynamics. 

Ignazio Maria Viola, of the School of Engineering, aims to study the fluid mechanics of dandelions to inform the design of a dandelion-inspired drone. 

Joe Marsh, of the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, hopes to improve our ability to identify pathogenic and other important variants through better consideration of molecular mechanisms. 


In future, UK based researchers may not be able to apply for these awards because of the UK leaving the European Union. 

However, the UK will continue to participate in the current 2014-2020 EU programmes, including ERC Grants, as if it were an EU Member State until the closure of the programmes. 

This means that UK beneficiaries can continue to take part in grants awarded under the current Multi-Annual Financial Framework until their end date, even if it is after 2020. 


Related Links 

European Research Council 

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