In the latest ERC funding announcement, on 10th December 2019, the University of Oxford received €56 million in European Research Council funding. Nine Oxford researchers received ERC Consolidator Grants, the most awarded to any institution in the UK and second in Europe only to the French National Centre for Scientific Research.
301 researchers across 24 countries received funding of €600 as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The grants are “designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme”, specifically researchers with seven to twelve years of experience after PhD. Applicant Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature and ambition of their scientific proposal.
At the University of Oxford, successful projects funded by the new grants range from Dr Emily Flashman’s research on plant oxygen-sensing enzymes and how to manipulate them in order to make plants better able to tolerate flooding, to Professor Suzanne Aigrain’s research which aims to develop novel data analysis techniques to help find Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars.
Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “We are proud of the success of our early career researchers in this recent round of highly competitive ERC funding. The level of funding support we receive from the ERC speaks to the calibre of researchers we are able to attract and who bring considerable prestige to the University.”
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, has argued that “The EU’s investment in frontier research is an investment in our future, which is why it is so important that we reach an agreement on an ambitious Horizon Europe budget for the next multiannual budget.”
The UK, which has traditionally received large amounts of funding from the ERC due to their policy of focusing purely on excellence which benefits wealthier institutions, will lose eligibility for EU funding if they leave without a deal. However, in such a ‘no-deal’ scenario, the UK government guarantees payments for running projects and for successful bids submitted before exit.