Four of them went to UU

Netherlands once again secures many ERC advanced grants in latest funding round

walter immerzeel foto UU
Walter Immerzeel, from Geosciences, is one of the UU winners thanks to his research into extreme precipitation in Asian mountains. Photo: UU

Despite its small size, the Netherlands has consistently secured numerous ERC grants over the years. Last year, the number of advanced grants awarded suddenly fell somewhat short of expectations and the Netherlands ranked seventh with 14 awards. However, in the 2023 funding round, the Netherlands is back in the top 4, with 23 of the 255 grants awarded. It was only outperformed by Germany (50 grants), the United Kingdom (42 grants), and France (37 grants). A total of 652 million euros were distributed in this round. The success rate of applicants was nearly 14 percent. 

The awards are still provisional, however, as the UK has chosen not to participate in the European research programme after Brexit. The scientists selected from UK universities will therefore only receive the grant if they take it to a research institution in a country that does participate in the programme. This restriction will no longer apply in 2024, when the UK is due to rejoin the research programme. Therefore, scientists will no longer need to transfer to another country. They will receive a similar grant from the UK government, which has continued to recognise selections made by the ERC.

Reserve list
There is a reserve list of researchers who may still get the grant if others fail to meet the requirements. Dutch institutions may also benefit from this. For now, most grants are going to the two universities in Amsterdam, Utrecht University and the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI)

Each year, the ERC distributes grants among young researchers (starting grants of up to 1.5 million euros), experienced researchers (consolidator grants of 2 million euros) and top researchers (advanced grants of 2.5 million euros).

The grants are similar to the Veni, Vidi and Vici grants awarded by the Dutch Research Council’s Talent Programme, although the European grants are higher.

Winners from Utrecht
Professor Albert Heck, from the Faculty of Science, is one of the winners thanks to his research into antibodies. The composition of antibodies varies from person to person and Heck is investigating whether this also changes during specific disease stages or as a result of certain treatments. His team will use the grant to develop new mass spectrometry techniques.

Petra de Jongh is a professor at Debye Institute. She researches the effect of catalysts. She got a grant to accelerate the energy transition — by developing catalysts for the efficient conversion of CO2 and hydrogen into sustainable fuels, for example. In addition to the grant of 2.5 million euros, she will also receive an additional one million euros for the purchase of specific equipment.

Professor of Physical Geography Walter Immerzeel is also among the winners. His project focuses on the mountain ranges of Asia. Extreme precipitation causes floods, landslides and avalanches there. Immerzeel's team will investigate how extreme topography causes changes in land use and moisture recycling and what that means for precipitation patterns in the mountains. They will also conduct field observations combined with analysis of advanced averaging and satellite images.

Jos Malda is a professor at both Veterinary Medicine and the University Medical Center Utrecht. He specialises in research into joints and how cartilage damage can be repaired. Replicating this type of cartilage is very difficult in practice, so Malda wants to use the grant to discover how eye cartilage is formed and how said cartilage can be recreated.

More information about the winners is available on UU's website.

Advanced grants 2023 
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam4
Universiteit van Amsterdam3
Universiteit Utrecht3
Nederlands Kanker Instituut3
Radboud Universiteit2
Universiteit Twente1
TU Eindhoven1
Universiteit Maastricht1
Universiteit van Amsterdam AMC1
Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht1