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Nine Oxford academics, including five from MPLS, have received European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants to fund cutting-edge research projects that address some of today’s most pressing challenges.

The awards, funded through the EU and worth up to €2.5 million each, allow established top researchers from across disciplines to explore their most creative ideas. The grants will also lead to the creation of jobs including postdoctoral and doctoral research positions.

Projects led by Oxford include one that will make synthetic tissues for applications in medicine, and another probing the information flows between companies and consumers, filling a gap in economic understanding and policy.

The Oxford researchers receiving awards in the latest round of funding are:

  • Professor Mark Armstrong, Department of Economics          
  • Professor Hagan Bayley, Department of Chemistry
  • Professor Benjamin Berks, Department of Biochemistry
  • Professor Veronique Gouverneur, Department of Chemistry        
  • Professor Marta Kwiatkowska, Department of Computer Science
  • Professor Gero Miesenboeck, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
  • Professor Melinda Mills, Department of Sociology
  • Professor Judith Rousseau, Department of Statistics
  • Professor Stuart West, Department of Zoology

Professor Kwiatkowska's award is her second ERC Advanced Grant. Her project aims to make progress towards provably robust 'strong' artificial intelligence - which seeks to match human intelligence - amid rapid advancement in machine learning technology. Professor Kwiatkowska said: "I am amazed by the award of the grant. It will allow me to focus on safety and robustness for AI, which are very important topics in view of the widespread deployment of such systems."

Professor Miesenboeck's project will seek to understand why we need to sleep by studying how the brain responds to sleep loss. He said: "I'm thrilled this worked out - especially since this may have been the last chance for UK residents to apply. The ERC is one of the very few funding agencies that understands 'the usefulness of useless knowledge', to quote Abraham Flexner's famous argument for curiosity-driven research."

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "The ERC Advanced Grants back outstanding researchers throughout Europe. Their pioneering work has the potential to make a difference in people's everyday life and deliver solutions to some of our most urgent challenges. The ERC gives these bright minds the possibility to follow their most creative ideas and to play a decisive role in the advancement of all domains of knowledge."

President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, added: "Since 2007, the European Research Council has attracted and financed some of the most audacious research proposals, and independent evaluations show that this approach has paid off. With this call, another 222 researchers from all over Europe and beyond will pursue their best ideas."

Of the 222 awards made in this round of funding, 47 (21%) are to UK institutions.

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