The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 544 million euros to 218 European researchers engaged in cutting-edge sectors, from nanotechnologies to understanding ageing. With 21 researchers, Italy is third in the ranking by nationality, but rises to sixth place when we consider the 14 projects hosted in our country, all led by men.
Two grants were awarded by the University of Padua and the Telethon Foundation, one of which for research on tumors conducted by the geneticist Andrea Ballabi; the Universities of Trento, Rome Tor Vergata, Pavia, Milan, the European University of Rome and Bocconi follow, as well as Elettra Sincrotrone of Trieste, the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit), the Milan Polytechnic and the Toscana Life Sciences Foundation, with the project on viral infections coordinated by Rino Rappuoli.
European funding for the most innovative research (Advanced Grants) is among the most prestigious in the world in the scientific field; they are assigned to established researchers with consolidated international experience, and can reach 2.5 million euros for each single project articulated over a maximum of 5 years.
“The €544 million funding puts our 218 research leaders, together with their teams of postdoctoral fellows, doctoral students and research staff, in pole position to push the boundaries of our knowledge, break new ground and build the foundations for future growth and prosperity in Europe,” said Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
Receiving the highest number of honorees are Germany, with 37 winners, followed by the United Kingdom (35), France (32); Italy (14) is sixth behind Spain and Israel. Considering instead the nationality of the awarded researchers, Italy is third with 21, after the Germans (36) and the French (32); the British follow (19).
Of the 218 Advanced Grant winners, over two-thirds (158) are men and only 60 are women, none of whom are Italian. Yet never before have there been as many requests presented by women as this year: 23% of the 1,650 requests received by the ERC.
The 14 projects financed in Italy concern very different scientific sectors. There are, for example, the new methods for designing and building materials on the nanometric scale, atom by atom, proposed by Liberato Manna of the IIT, which obtained about 2.5 million over the next five years, and then the research on some rare exceptions of mathematics conducted by the Australian Amnon Neeman, of the University of Milan, and again the funding of 2.1 million obtained by Andrea Mattevi, of the University of Pavia, to reveal all the secrets of the coenzyme Q used in cosmetics but interesting for mote other applications. At the University of Padua, the ROOMors project led by Umberto Castiello analyzes the ability of plants to ‘plan actions’, while Stefano Piccolo studies the erosion of connective tissue as a possible cause of organ ageing.
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