The main goal of the European Research Council (ERC) is to fund Europe’s brightest minds and thus encourage the highest quality research. In April 2016, the ERC announced the awarding of its prestigious Advanced Grants, and three life sciences researchers from Baden-Württemberg were among the recipients.
ERC funding enables scientists from all areas of research to break new ground, rather than following politically motivated ambitions. The ERC hopes that this flexibility will lead to promising new fields of research. ERC grants are awarded to European researchers with outstanding projects. The sole funding criterion is scientific excellence. The aim is to find and support the best ideas and brightest minds in Europe. The European Research Council expects the grant to bring about new scientific and technological discoveries that will then form the basis of new industries, markets, and broader social innovations of the future.
Ultimately, the ERC aims to make the European research base better prepared to respond to society's needs and give it the capabilities required to meet global challenges. The ERC has three core funding schemes and one additional scheme for existing ERC grant holders.
The three core funding schemes are:
The additional scheme is called “ERC Proof of Concept” and can only be awarded to ERC grant holders.
Three senior scientists from Baden-Württemberg are among the European scientists awarded an ERC Advanced Grant in the life sciences. The scheme targets researchers who are established leaders in their respective fields of research and have demonstrated significant achievements in the last 10 years. The scientists may be awarded up to 2.5 million euros for a period of up to five years. ERC Advanced Grant calls are issued once a year.
Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen receives an ERC Advanced Grant worth 2.2 million euros for her research on the molecular and genetic background of colour pattern formation in zebrafish about which little is yet known. The researcher is hoping that this project to identify the genes underlying the variation of colour patterns in the fish will contribute to understanding the evolution of biodiversity.
Professor Hassan Jumaa, director of the Institute of Immunology at the University Hospital of Ulm, receives an ERC Advanced Grant worth 2.25 million euros. The leukaemia researcher will use the money to advance cancer research specifically focusing on B lymphocytes, which stop working in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), to name but one example. Prof. Hassan Jumaa is seeking to explore the signals of the B-cell receptor in greater detail in order to draw conclusions on CLL.
The third Baden-Württemberg scientist to receive an ERC Advanced Grant in the life sciences is Dr. Jan Ellenberg, director of the Institute of Cell Biology and Biophysics at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. Ellenberg’s group of researchers investigates how cells divide and organise during mitosis and meiosis, and how malfunctions can lead to cancer and infertility.