EU Awards Top Researcher at Trinity College Dublin
The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that Professor Valeria Nicolosi, based in CRANN (the nanoscience institute at Trinity College Dublin), will receive up to €150,000 funding for a one year project to bridge the gap between her pioneering 'blue sky' research and marketable innovation.
Prof. Nicolosi's project "Ultrasonic spray deposition: Enabling new 2D based technologies (2D-USD)" will determine the economic and technical feasibility of using one-atom-thick materials for the development of inexpensive and high performance ultra-thin, flexible supercapacitors for energy storage. In all 33 top researchers across 15 countries were announced as grantees of this 'Proof of Concept' grant which will mean funding up to €150,000 for each of them to turn their frontier research into innovation. Prof. Nicolosi, is however, the only Irish based researcher to receive funding from this latest round of ERC grants.
Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The European Research Council's 'Proof of Concept' initiative has already helped over 140 researchers to test the market potential of their ERC-funded frontier research. Bringing the best ideas to market is what will keep Europe competitive, and that in turn means jobs."
Professor Nicolosi explains that climate change and the decreasing availability of fossil fuels require society to move towards sustainable and renewable resources. As a result, we are observing an increase in renewable energy production from sun and wind, as well as the development of electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles with low CO2 emissions. Energy storage systems like batteries and supercapacitors are starting to play a larger part in our lives. The key to supercapacitors’ performance improvement is to use high surface area, mechanically robust, strain-resistant, electrochemically stable and electronically conducting, resistant to extreme temperature (-60°-+120°C) materials. Two-dimensional nanomaterials (sheets which are only atom-thick) are ideal candidates that fulfill all these requirements at once.
On learning her project was selected for this prestigious EU funding, Prof. Nicolosi said "I was indeed thrilled when I heard the news of this award. It will allow me to bring this project to the next level, from fundamental to more applied horizons. It will allow a full economic and technical feasibility study and ultimately will provide a platform to link my findings with industrial targets".
These 'Proof of Concept' grants are open to scientists who already hold ERC grants. The funded projects cover topics in domains as varied as neurosciences, engineering, and architecture and human rights. One researcher, for instance, explores ways to develop a tablet PC, which could be used by both clinicians and family members to detect consciousness after coma in real-time; another one aims to commercialise flexible and stretchable electronics to equip energy efficient and eco-friendly vehicles.
Not only applied research, but occasionally also ‘blue sky’, basic science – the type of research that the ERC supports - can generate unexpected opportunities for applications. With its 'Proof of Concept' scheme, the ERC enables the full exploitation of the excellent ideas it funds. This top-up funding can cover activities aimed at commercial and societal applications, such as intellectual property rights, investigation of commercial and business opportunities or technical validation.
ERC President Professor Helga Nowotny commented: "Despite the small part of the ERC budget put into the 'Proof of Concept' scheme, it represents an important step towards innovation. It encourages links between ideas that turn up in fundamental research and the opportunities offered by taking them further towards market. The increase in demand for these grants is a positive signal showing that ERC-funded researchers are ready to contribute towards societal benefits. This mindset and openness is needed in Europe.”
This first set of grants of this call goes to researchers across 15 countries. A total of 145 proposals were submitted to the call and the success rate is around 24%. The budget of the entire call is €10 million, of which nearly €5 million go to this first round. The funding is for up to one year per project.
The second and final deadline of the 'Proof of Concept' 2013 call for proposals, open to ERC grant holders, is 3 October 2013.
Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research. It aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging competition for funding between the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. It funds young, early-career top researchers ('ERC Starting grants'), already independent excellent scientists ('ERC Consolidator Grants'), and senior research leaders ('ERC Advanced Grants'). The substantial funding is awarded based on peer review evaluation and can amount to maximum €2 million for a Starting Grant, €2.75 million for a Consolidator Grant and €3.5 million for an Advanced Grant. The funding scheme, 'Proof of Concept', was introduced in 2011, as top-up funding for ERC grantees.
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