Share article:
Share article:

EU awards top researchers from 17 countries


The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded grants to 55 researchers from 17 countries to explore the commercial or societal potential of their research results. A spin-off of one of the projects is a tool to detect bacteria and viruses in water.

The grants, which are worth €150,000 each and are part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, can be used to explore business opportunities, prepare patent applications or verify the practical viability of scientific concepts.

“The ERC grants announced today is yet another means of EU support to our brightest scientists that will enable them to advance our knowledge across a broad front for the benefit of our societies and economies,” said Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation and Research (27 April).

“Moreover, the coronavirus crisis we are faced with today prompts us to rethink the vital role of science and research in Europe and beyond,” she added. “They are our best hope for progress and best insurance policy against the unexpected.”

The awarded projects cover a variety of topics, for example a faster and cheaper approach to detect disease-causing microorganisms; low-power, energy-harvesting hearing implants; or developing a sustainable social business to manage and ethically distribute donated DNA data to scientists.

The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 17 countries: Austria (1 grant), Switzerland (2), Cyprus (1), Germany (9), Spain (5), Finland (1), France (3), Israel (5), Italy (4), Luxembourg (1), Netherlands (3), Norway (1) Poland (1), Portugal (1), Sweden (3), Turkey (1) and the UK (13).

The ERC, set up by the EU in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects in Europe. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to work in Europe.

Among the awarded researchers is Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor at the Technical University Berlin, where he leads the Astrobiology Research Group and searches for extraterrestrial life. In the course of his research he developed instruments to detect life on Mars. This included tools to spot microbes and their behavior in the natural environment.

His new Portable Device for Detecting Pathogens (PortPath) for applications on Earth is a spin-off of this work. An easy-to-use software together with low-cost hardware will indicate whether pathogens are present in a water sample. Infectious diseases are caused by pathogens, which include among others bacteria and viruses.

The device promises to be faster and cheaper than previous detection methods, and could be used also by non-medical laypersons. The device will first focus on cholera pathogen, which kills some 140,000 people per year in developing countries. Later, its potential will be tested for detection of other pathogens, as well as in food safety applications.

The Brussels Times

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...