Four UCL academics awarded European Research Council Starting Grants
12 January 2022
Four researchers at UCL have been awarded prestigious EU funding for the next five years for projects in sustainable food, computer science, human rights and liver disease.
The academics will join 393 early-career researchers in the first call for proposals under the EU’s new Research & Innovation programme, Horizon Europe. The funding in total is worth €697 million to assist early-career academics conducting pioneering research across all disciplines.
Of the allocated funds, around €6million will be given to UCL projects.
The four recipients are:
- Dr Carole Dalin (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources). Her project is FLORA (‘Sustainable and healthy food solutions: system dynamics and trade-offs’). Through it, Dr Dalin will pursue ambitious scientific goals to help find effective solutions for sustainable food systems worldwide. The project will contribute to a transformation of global agri-food production, trade and consumption necessary to achieve sustainable and healthy food systems. The project will gather essential evidence to identify and implement the shifts in practices and behaviours needed to effectively achieve this.
- Dr Ryuji Hirayama (UCL Computer Science). His project is ‘Acoustic Holography for Multimodal 3D Display and Fabrication’. The aim of the project is to use recent advances in acoustic holography and high-performance computational techniques to create multimodal interactive applications that dynamically combine computational fabrication with all five senses. Dr Hirayama’s ambition is to create systems that empower the design community to embrace the power of acoustic holography in creating applications that can create and manipulate both digital and physical artefacts.
- Dr Agnieszka Kubal (UCL School of Slavic & East European Studies). Her project, ‘Who are the humans behind Human Rights? A Sociology of Human Rights in Eastern Europe and Russia’ will study human rights mobilisation and activism in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and Russia. Citizens of these countries bring more than 50% of all claims to the European Court of Human Rights.
- Dr Laura Pallett (UCL Infection & Immunity). Her project is ‘Unravelling the Crosstalk between Tissue-Resident CD4+ T Cells and Stromal Cells driving Liver Fibrosis’. Since 2018 liver fibrosis and associated chronic liver disease has been the leading cause of premature death in people aged 35-49. Dr Pallett’s work focuses on investigating how a specialised population of immune cells known as liver-resident T cells ‘talk’ to neighbouring cells and where this ‘conversation’ can go wrong. The ERC funding will enable Dr Pallett and her to focus on the understudied CD4+ resident T cell compartment and test whether tissue-resident T cells promote tissue damage contributing to fibrosis progression.
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “Congratulations to our fantastic researchers who have received funding under the new, highly competitive, Horizon Europe programme. The fact that these pioneering projects come from an array of disciplines highlights the sheer breadth and brilliance of research that takes place at UCL - on a range of fascinating and vitally important topics. Good luck to all the researchers involved, and I look forward to learning about their findings.”
The call for proposals attracted more than 4,000 applications. The award recipients come from 45 countries across Europe, with the majority being from Germany (67), Italy (58), France (44), the UK (46) and the Netherlands (27). A total of 46 projects will be carried out at institutions in the UK, and 12 recipients are from the UK.
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “With this very first round of long-awaited grants, I am glad to see the European Research Council remaining a flagship for excellent and curiosity-driven science under the Horizon Europe programme. I am looking forward to seeing what new breakthroughs and opportunities the new ERC laureates will bring, and how they will inspire young people to follow their curiosity and make discoveries for the benefit of us all.”
President of the European Research Council Prof. Maria Leptin said: “Letting young talent thrive in Europe and go after their most innovative ideas - this is the best investment in our future, not least with the ever-growing competition globally. We must trust the young and their insights into what areas will be important tomorrow. So, I am thrilled to see these new ERC Starting Grant winners ready to cut new ground and set up their own teams. Some of them will be coming back from overseas, thanks to the ERC grants, to do science in Europe. We must continue to make sure Europe remains a scientific powerhouse.”
- Left to right top: Dr Carole Dalin, Dr Ryuji Hirayama. Left to right bottom: Dr Laura Pallett, Dr Agnieszka Kubal.