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Bristol awarded record number of European grants for ‘excellent’ science, third highest in Europe

Every year, the ERC selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.

23 April 2021

The University will receive €13M for globally significant research into anti-microbial resistance, artificial reproduction, futuristic materials, quantum mechanics, the philosophy of evolution and a truth taskforce to combat misinformation.

Professor Adrian Mulholland is one of six senior researchers from the University of Bristol who have been awarded over €13M in European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants in recognition of their excellent science and potentially ground-breaking research.

This figure places the University second in the UK and third across Europe in terms of the number of ERC Advanced Grants awarded from the 2020 call. This makes 2020 the most successful year for the University of Bristol with a success rate of 32 per cent.

Of the total 209 awards made, worth €507 million, 51 awards will be hosted within the UK followed by Germany (40) and France (22).

The ERC’s Advanced Grant scheme supports exceptional researchers, leaders in their field, in undertaking ambitious and innovative research projects. These grants were awarded under the 'excellent science' pillar of Horizon 2020.

The awardees, representing five faculties at the University of Bristol, will pioneer research on a wide range of topics across disciplines as diverse as; artificial reproductive technology, quantum mechanics, the development of a new class of metamaterials, theoretical and computational chemistry, addressing and understanding contemporary misinformation, and examining how biological evolution has been represented in scientific literature.

“The sole criterion for a European Research Council Advanced Grant is excellence and these awards recognise those with a track-record of outstanding research achievements. The University of Bristol has done extraordinarily well to have been awarded six of these prestigious awards in a single round. The combined value of the six awards to Bristol is more than €13M, enabling these individuals to pursue their ground-breaking research for which the University is renowned.

“The UK has full access to Horizon Europe, the successor framework programme to Horizon 2020, and the ERC Advanced Grant 2021 will be launched shortly. I encourage individuals to consider applying to this and other Horizon Europe schemes, to take advantage of the opportunity this €95.5 billion funding offers," said Professor Philip Taylor, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise.

Professor Mulholland's project will focus on modelling enzymes – biological catalysts – and using simulations to understand and predict how they work. This will include enzymes involved in antibiotic resistance (in collaboration with Professor Jim Spencer in Cellular and Molecular Mecicine, whose group carries out experiments on these enzymes). The team will model chemical reactions (e.g. the breakdown of antibiotics) in enzymes. The simulations will analyse why some bacterial enzymes are able to break down particular antibiotics while others cannot. This sort of understanding should help in understanding the evolution of antibiotic resistance and in the development of enzyme inhibitors to combat it. The researchers will also work on enzyme design and understanding how evolution adapts enzymes to work at high or low temperatures.

Further information

The European Research Council (ERC)

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier 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 based in Europe.

The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

To date, the ERC has funded nearly 10,000 researchers at various stages of their careers, and over 70,000 postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams.

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. The ERC President is Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.

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