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ERC allocates another 15 million Euros to Portuguese research

The European Research Council (ERC - European Research Council, in English) announced today (March 17) the projects selected in the Consolidator Grants, the Studentships for researchers with 7 to 12 years of experience, among which there are 5 projects of researchers to develop their activity in Portugal. Each will be funded with about 2 million euros, for a total of 10 million euros. The ERC also announced the allocation of funding to three other Portuguese projects, which were on the reserve list in the Starting Grants, which together will receive 4.9 million euros.

Of the Portuguese projects selected in the Consolidator Grants, four are in the area of social sciences and humanities and one in the area of exact sciences and engineering. The first group includes the projects: "Food circuits: hidden links between migrants and societies", by Frederico Fiuza, from the Instituto Superior Técnico Association for Research and Development; "Food circuits: hidden links between migrants and societies", by Seth Holmes, from the Institute of Social Sciences (University of Lisbon); "Queer citizenship over time: Ageing, ageism and age-related LGBTI+ policies in Europe", by Ana Cristina Santos, from the Centre for Social Studies (University of Coimbra); and "Fisheries architecture: the ecological continuum between buildings and fish species", by André Tavares, from the University of Porto. The project in the area of exact sciences is led by João Cascalheira, from the University of Algarve, and is entitled "Population trajectories and cultural dynamics of late Neanderthals in the far west of Eurasia".

In January, the ERC announced the results of the Starting Grants, the Studentships for early career scientists, among which there were 5 Portuguese projects, now joined by the other 3 projects on the reserve list. Of these new projects, two focus on the area of evolutionary and developmental biology, more specifically the project led by Inês Fragata, from the Faculty of Science, University of Lisbon, with the project "Feedback between population dynamics and the evolution of interactions in a trophic system", and Waldan Kwong, from the Gulbenkian Science Institute, with the project "Genetic factors that allow microbiome symbioses: bees as a natural model system". The third project, led by Alex Armand, from the New University of Lisbon, is entitled "The global impact of coastal water contamination on economic development". Portugal therefore totals about 13 million euros of funding under the Starting Grants, and marks a record of 8 projects selected for this type of Studentship, in a single Call.

In February, the ERC had also distinguished 4 Portuguese projects in the Proof of Concept Grants, the Studentships for projects previously funded by the ERC that intend to explore the commercial and social potential of research beyond research, funded with a total value of 600 thousand euros.

Since the beginning of the year, Portuguese research has already received around 24 million euros from Calls of the European Research Council (ERC), funding under Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the European funding framework program for research and innovation that succeeds Horizon 2020.


Abstracts of the selected projects

Consolidator Grants

Frederico Fiuza
Association of the Higher Technical Institute for Research and Development
"Extreme acceleration of particles in shocks: from laboratory to astrophysics"

In space, shock waves occurring between supersonic plasmas give rise to the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe. Recent astronomical observations have revealed the nature and importance of phenomena associated with shock waves in plasmas in the Universe, such as the acceleration of cosmic rays in supernova remnants, the light emitted in the collision of neutron stars, and the jets fired by massive black holes. However, until now there has been a failure to understand the physical principles governing particle acceleration during astrophysical shocks. This project aims to explore and understand the scientific issues related to this topic, using computational simulations and machine learning techniques, and subsequent laboratory experiments.

Seth Holmes
Institute of Social Sciences (University of Lisbon)
"Food circuits: hidden connections between migrants and societies"

Most fruits and vegetables would not be available in European markets without the labor performed by migrant workers. However, the contribution of migrants to food systems is often hidden from those who buy and consume food. In this project the cases of asparagus from Germany, oranges from Spain, and strawberries from California are considered to study the connections between migrants and societies, as well as the ways in which these connections become invisible.

Ana Cristina Santos
Center for Social Studies (University of Coimbra)
"Queer citizenship over time: aging, idadism and age-related LGBTI+ policies in Europe"

Sexual and gender diversity are constitutive elements of democratic societies that have been targeted by far-right populism and other anti-democratic forces. Taking queer citizenship as a set of criteria by which democracies can be assessed, this project explores the extent to which the EU has influenced local politics and socio-legal advances in LGBTI+ rights, narratives, and experiences over time.

André Tavares
University of Porto
"Fisheries architecture: the ecological continuum between buildings and fish species"

To what extent can fish produce architecture? This project proposes to trace a socio-ecological history of North Atlantic architecture related to fisheries, elucidating the relationships between marine environments and terrestrial landscapes, making an assessment of the ecological impact of fisheries constructions and the natural resources on which they depend.

João Cascalheira
University of Algarve
"Population trajectories and cultural dynamics of late Neanderthals in far western Eurasia"

The Iberian Peninsula, due to its geographical position and the role of its southern regions as one of the last refugia of Neanderthals, represents an ideal natural setting to test models of cultural and demographic trajectories leading to the final disappearance of these populations. This project seeks to expand this framework by implementing a new approach to the archaeological and paleoenvironmental records associated with late Neanderthals in southwestern Iberia.


Starting Grants

Waldan Kwong
Gulbenkian Institute of Science
"Genetic factors enabling microbiome symbioses: bees as a natural model system"

The gut microbiome is essential for the well-being of many animals, including humans and bees. However, the genetic factors that give rise to stable and healthy microbiomes are still poorly understood. Because of the complexity of most gut microbiomes, previous work in this field has been limited to rather simplified in vitro studies. In contrast, the central goal of this project is a systematic analysis of microbial interaction mechanisms at the molecular and ecological levels. In contrast to other systems, we can culture all members of the bee gut microbiome and have also recently developed genetic tools for their manipulation. The work aims to contribute to the identification of general principles of microbiome composition and function, which has broad implications for fields where microbiomes play important roles, including agriculture, medicine and biotechnology.

Inês Fragata Almeida
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
"Feedback between population dynamics and the evolution of interactions in a tritrophic system"

This project proposes an in-depth analysis of the eco-evolutionary process by combining experimental studies of evolution and theoretical modeling of a trophic system composed of plants (Arabidopsis thaliana), herbivores (Tetranychus urticae), and predators (Amblyseius swirskii). The long-term goal of the is to develop statistical and theoretical tools to generate predictions about how a wide range of ecosystems persist in a rapidly changing world.

Alex Armand
New University of Lisbon
"The global impact of coastal water contamination on economic development"

Worldwide, the ocean supports the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people, the vast majority of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recent evidence shows that human contamination of coastal waters is having a significant impact on marine life. The project will identify, across these countries, the exogenous variation in coastal water contamination as determined by pollutant discharges to rivers and climate change over the past five decades by bringing together a wide range of micro-data, from household surveys to satellite imagery, and by applying advanced micro-econometric techniques.