Kunal Masania sits at a computer in his lab
Kunal Masania in his lab. (Still from TU Delft video)

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 20 consolidator grants to experienced researchers in the Netherlands, less than in previous three years. Two go to TU Delft.

Lees in het Nederlands

The TU Delft researchers among the laureates are:

  • Hayley Hung from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
    Hung will receive a consolidator grant for her research on a complex problem in artificial intelligence: understanding human intentions. Current AI techniques always know only one truth, while people often interpret each other‘s intentions completely differently. Hung wants to bring all these perspectives together in one new system that can help people understand each other’s behaviour.
     
  • Kunal Masania from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering
    Masania will receive a grant for his research on living composite structural materials that can adapt to conditions such as load or damage. In this video, he explains what he is working on:

In total the ERC will be handing out 657 million euros worth of consolidator grants during this round, each worth 2 million euros on average. Of the 2,222 applications submitted, 321 were selected (14.4 percent). The lion’s share of the grants has been awarded to research projects in Germany (62), followed by the UK (45) and France (41). Israel, Spain (both 24) and Italy (21) have also done better than the Netherlands this year, which ranked fourth back in 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Provisional
The ranking is provisional, because the grants for UK researchers are still pending. The laureates will only be able to begin spending their grants once the Brits sign a treaty safeguarding their participation in the Horizon Europe programme.

As an alternative, they may take their research grant to an institution in a country that is affiliated with Horizon Europe. Should they choose to decline the grant, other researchers who initially missed out could be awarded a grant after all. The same happened to some grants awarded in 2021, allowing the Netherlands to move up in the ranking to third place. Another contributing factor was the fact that Switzerland was no longer in the running.

Solidarity
The consolidator grants are comparable to the Dutch Research Council’s Vidi grants. This spring, Marcel Levi, chairperson of the Dutch Research Council, suggested that recipients should give back their Dutch grant if they also receive a European grant shortly after. “That would show solidarity with researchers who have missed out on a grant. In any event, we want to get that debate going.”

Some of the Dutch ERC grant winners were also the recipients of a Vidi grant, but that was several years ago. Hayley Hung, for example, got one in 2016, so the five-year term has already passed.

HOP, Hein Cuppen/Delta, Saskia Bonger
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU