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Netherlands wins 27 European advanced grants, of which three go to Utrecht

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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 27 advanced grants of up to 2.5 million euros to researchers from Dutch institutions. This funding will allow them to do groundbreaking research for the next five years. In Utrecht, the winners are the Professor in Dynamic Geography, Henk Dijkstra, and two research leaders at the Hubrecht Institute, Alexander van Oudenaarden and Takashi Hiiragi.

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Each year, the ERC distributes "starting grants" of 1.5 million euros to young researchers, "consolidator grants" of 2 million euros to experienced researchers, and "advanced grants" of 2.5 million euros to top researchers. These grants are similar to the Veni, Vidi and Vici subsidies awarded by the Dutch Research Council. Thanks to the experience acquired when applying for the national grants, Dutch institutions tend to be quite successful at winning their European counterparts.

Professor Henk Dijkstra is going to conduct research on the weakening of the Gulf Stream current and its possible consequences. Two research leaders from KNAW's Hubrecht Institute, which is also based at the Utrecht Science Park, are getting advanced grants as well. 

Alexander van Oudenaarden, also a UU Professor, is going to research new techniques to measure the amount of protein in cells. As for Hiiragi, he studies embryonic development and how cells "know" where in the embryo they should be at a given moment.

Germany and the UK
Only two other countries managed to secure more advanced grants this round: Germany was awarded 61 grants, while the UK won 45. France almost tied with the Netherlands (26) and significantly outperformed Italy (15) and Spain (14).

Foreign nationals working in the Netherlands can also win ERC grants on behalf of Dutch institutions and Dutch researchers can do the same abroad. Ranked by nationality, the Dutch are in fourth place with 26 awards, behind the Germans (58), the British (29) and Italians (27).

The competition was fierce: there were 1,735 applications, of which only 253 were ultimately awarded. This means the average success rate was 14.6 percent. About one in four winners were female; of the 27 winners in the Netherlands, seven are women. A total of 625 million euros was awarded this round.

Brexit
As a result of Brexit, the grants for UK institutions are still pending. There is a treaty in place that allows for UK participation in the European research programme, but it still needs to be worked out in more detail.

If this does not happen in time, UK researchers have two options: they can either turn down their advanced grant or take it with them to a research institution in a country that does participate in the European research programme. Should they choose the first option, other researchers who initially missed out could be awarded an advanced grant after all.

While some countries are successful at applying for European research funds, others rarely win. The unequal distribution of research funding is a political issue for the EU: while Brussels is keen to invest in research and innovation, some member states rarely, if ever, receive grants and would benefit more from farming subsidies, for example. The result is a tug-of-war between academia and agriculture.

No smarter
“Scientists are no smarter in one country than in another”, said Dutch professor and ERC Vic-President Eveline Crone last year. Exchange programmes are one of the ways the ERC is trying to break the pattern in which the more experienced countries always come out on top in the battle for grants.

List of winners from Dutch knowledge institutions

BIERMA -ZEINSTRA

Sita Ma

Erasmus MC

MARTENS

John

Erasmus MC

PEEPER

Daniel

Dutch Cancer Institute

VAN STEENSEL

Bas

Dutch Cancer Institute

HIIRAGI

Takashi

KNAW

ROELFSEMA

Pieter

KNAW

VAN
OUDENAARDEN

Alexander

KNAW

VAN SOMEREN

Eus JW

KNAW

YAZDANBAKHSH

Maria

LUMC Leiden

COOLS

Roshan

Radboud MC

FRIEDL

Peter

Radboud MC

TONI

Ivan

Radboud University

LOI

Maria Antonietta

Groningen University

MARRINK

Siewert

Groningen University

VAN WEES

Bart Jan

Groningen University

VAN SLIEDREGT

Elies

Tilburg University

HOLLMANN

Frank

TU Delft

STALLINGA

Sjoerd

TU Delft

BOUTEN

Carlijn

TU Eindhoven

HEEMELS

Maurice

TU Eindhoven

BISSCHOP

Peter

Leiden University

HOEKSTRA

Hendrik

Leiden University

VAN WEZEL

Gilles

Leiden University

DIJKSTRA

Henk

Utrecht University

M'CHAREK

Amade

UvA Amsterdam

VAN DER MAAS

Han

UvA Amsterdam

HARDON

Anita

Wageningen University

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