€5.7 million EU funding for major UEA research projects

9 December 2020

From tackling climate change to studying fertility – researchers at the University of East Anglia have secured EU funding worth more than €5.7 million (£5.15 million sterling) for three major research projects.

The 2020 European Research Council ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding mid-career researchers with a scientific track record showing great promise.

They are among 327 projects across 23 countries in Europe to be awarded a share of a €655 million ‘frontier research’ funding package.

Dr Charlie Wilson, from UEA's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, has been awarded €1,598,465 to study the digitisation of daily life and its impact on climate change. Digitalisation is a major trend that is reshaping our lives – from videoconferencing to smartphone apps for just about everything. Dr Wilson’s four-year project will investigate how these changes in our everyday lives can help reduce carbon emissions and support global efforts to tackle climate change.

Dr Simone Immler from UEA’s School of Biology has been awarded €2,122,476 to research fertility.

Her project will investigate the role of selection on sperm and eggs based on their genetic make-up in determining the fitness of the resulting offspring in zebrafish. And the team hope this will one day help us understand more about human reproduction and fertility.

Dr Alexander Suh, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, has been awarded €1,994,180 to study germline-restricted chromosomes, a part of the genome that is only present in germline cells but absent in other body cells of some organisms. The team hopes to understand how this chromosome evolved across songbirds, how it is eliminated during development, and what consequences its existence may have for germline-soma differentiation.

The funding is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. With this support, the project leaders will be able to consolidate their teams and have far-reaching impact.

Prof Fiona Lettice, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at UEA, said: “ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to the most talented researchers and innovators, so I would like congratulate Simone, Charlie and Alexander for this great achievement. Their projects will improve our understanding of these important topics and will deliver significant impact and real change.”

ERC President Prof Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said: “This funding not only empowers bright minds from across Europe to pursue their most ambitious ideas at a critical stage of their careers, but also helps train the youngest generation of researchers as members of their ERC teams.

“To prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, Europe must stick to the vision of investing in frontier research, which has proved time and again its crucial added value. That is why so many count on Europe’s leaders to endow the “Excellent Science” pillar of Horizon Europe with the resources essential to strengthen Europe as a whole.”