The European Research Council (ERC) announced the 37 scientific teams that will receive a total of €395 million to solve research problems that are so complex that they cannot be solved by working alone. Synergy grants support projects by leading researchers in different countries who join forces to tackle highly complex research problems.
A total of 395 proposals have been submitted to this call and 37 of them have been successful. The countries in which most of the projects are organised are as follows: Germany (27), France (12), the Netherlands (7), followed by Spain, Israel, Italy, Sweden and Norway (5 each). In total, 135 researchers will carry out their projects in 114 universities and research centres in 19 European countries, as well as outside Europe.
Is it possible to mitigate the risk of sudden volcanic catastrophes? Do bats hold the secret to health and longevity? Can speech analysis predict and prevent psychotic disorders? These are just some of the topics that the new winners of the ERC Synergy Grants will study.
The Spanish entities involved in the synergy grants are the University of Zaragoza, the Pompeu Fabra University and the National Research Council, the latter with 3 projects. One of the Spanish projects aims to use changes in language as possible indicators of psychotic breaks in patients who have already suffered from them:
Can we use the neuroscience of language to predict relapses in psychosis? Although mental states fluctuate constantly, these fluctuations are usually mild. For approximately 22 million people in Europe, however, they can tip into unpredictable turbulence, leading to psychotic episodes that often recur. An international team of researchers, based in the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland, hypothesises that these mental turbulences are reflected in what they call the “language delta”: measurable changes in language and the brain. With the help of large linguistic models, which give computers the ability to understand and interpret human language, and with high-frequency brain imaging, they want to repeatedly measure linguistic and neurobiological changes during different states of psychosis: from the acute phase to remission. The aim of their DELTA-LANG project is to construct a personal and neurobiologically plausible index of phase change: when people with psychotic episodes move from remission to psychotic relapse. The ability to understand and detect these phase shifts early enough, similar to our ability to anticipate a thunderstorm, would be a major advance in public health because, unlike thunderstorms, psychosis can be prevented.
This project will be financed over six years and has a budget of almost ten million euros.
The synergy grant scheme is intended for a group of two to four principal investigators working together and bringing together different competencies and resources to tackle ambitious research challenges. One principal investigator per research group can work for an institution outside the EU or associated countries.
About the ERC
Established by the European Union in 2007, the ERC is Europe’s leading funding body for excellence in frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age to develop their projects across Europe. The ERC offers four main grant programmes: Starting Grants, Consolidation Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. In addition, with its additional Proof-of-Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps beneficiaries bridge the gap between pioneering research and the early stages of commercialisation. The ERC is governed by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. Since November 2021, Maria Leptin is the ERC’s Chair. The ERC’s total budget from 2021 to 2027 amounts to more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, and is under the responsibility of Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
More information: European Commission