World-leading academics in science and engineering at University College Cork (UCC) have received prestigious European funding worth a combined total of €6.4m to support research into diverse topics such as animal evolution, how viruses impact gut bacteria, and ways to revolutionise surgery.
The receipt of the much sought-after European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants is a significant endorsement of the state-of-the-art scientific exploration underway at UCC, with funding being allocated to academics from the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science based across APC Microbiome Ireland, the Environmental Research Institute, and the Tyndall National Institute.
The funding is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. A total of 327 grants worth €655m were awarded to projects based across 23 countries. UCC accounted for three of the eight grants awarded in Ireland this year.
ERI, School of BEES and iCRAG researcher Professor Maria McNamara was the recipient of over €2m in the funding allocation for her project outlined below.
Professor Maria McNamara - €2,460,114.
Based at UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG), Prof McNamara’s research aims to understand how key biomolecules such as melanin, keratin and collagen evolved in animals, and to understand how well these important biomolecules can be preserved in fossils.
The project will establish UCC as a global centre for cutting-edge research on fossils and evolution. Prof McNamara’s team will use the research results as the basis for exciting STEM-based community engagement activities with the public.
Prof McNamara said:
“I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this funding, which will transform my research by enabling me to bring together a team of really smart and engaged young researchers to answer one of the biggest questions in evolution today.”
The significant grants have been welcomed by Interim UCC President Prof John O’Halloran, Vice President for Research & Innovation Prof Anita Maguire, and Head of the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science Prof Sarah Culloty.
Prof O’Halloran said:
“This outstanding achievement by these cutting-edge researchers reflected their commitment to excellence in exploratory research. Securing this new funding will enable them to build capacity in their specialist areas and to develop their ambitious research ideas.
I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the three grant awardees on securing this highly competitive funding, and I look forward to supporting these outstanding scholars in advancing these and other research priorities at UCC over the coming years.”
Prof Maguire said:
“The prestigious ERC awards support frontier research by the highest calibre researchers across Europe – inclusion of three UCC researchers in the latest group of awardees is very welcome, highlighting the global competitiveness of their research and the exciting ideas they have presented. Sincere congratulations to all three researchers and their research teams – we look forward to exciting results from their endeavours.”
Professor Culloty said:
“Academics from the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science play a major role in UCC’s large research centres, including the Tyndall National Institute, the Environmental Research Institute and APC Microbiome Ireland. We are delighted that our three colleagues have been awarded prestigious ERC funding, enabling them to undertake cutting edge research in their respective fields of expertise”.