Dr. Rüdiger Hesse

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Max Planck scientists very pleased about ERC grants

The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft has once again been successful in winning support from the European Research Council (ERC)

January 30, 2012

With seven Advanced Grants, the MPG is Germany’s top recipient of EU funding. In response to its fourth call for applications, the ERC conferred a total of 294 of these lucrative research awards, of which 52 went to German universities and research institutions.

“We must not forget that the Scientific Members of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft contribute a huge amount of work as reviewers for the ERC,” commented Dr. Rüdiger Hesse, head of the representative office in Brussels of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. “Almost a third of our 280 Directors are constantly engaged in voluntary work for the ERC. I have the highest admiration for their services to European science!”

Some 2284 projects were proposed to the ERC, which awards Advanced Grants in three categories: life sciences, social sciences and humanities, and physics/technology/engineering. The largest number of successful applications came from Great Britain, which accounted for 68 grants, followed by Germany with 52 and France with 31. It was striking that the humanities and social sciences accounted for only five of the Advanced Grants awarded to German applicants.

In accordance with the terms of the grants, in order to qualify for funding to support the necessary freedom of research, applicants must already have recorded some outstanding achievements in their field and their new projects must meet strict excellence criteria. The grants awarded to top scientists at the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft averaged 2.2 million euros each. The successful Directors are:

Ian Baldwin (MPI for Chemical Ecology): Ecological performance of arrhtymic plants in nature

Klaus Blaum (MPI for Nuclear Physics): Precision measurements of fundamental constants

Elena Conti (MPI for Biochemistry): RNA poly(A) tail: the beginning of the end

Dierk Raabe (MPI für Eisenforschung GmbH): Adaptive nanostructures in next generation metallic materials: Converting mechanically unstable structures into smart engineering alloys

Erin Schumann (MPI for Brain Research): Dynamics of local transcriptomes and proteomes in neurons

Joachim Spatz (MPI for Intelligent Systems): Synthetic biology approach to adhesion-mediated environment sensing

Claudia Felser (MPI for Chemical Physics of Solids): Inverse design on an atomic scale: multifunctional Heusler compounds

Claudia Felser is included in the MPG tally with the following reservations: Prof. Felser has worked at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden only since December – her application was submitted while she was still a professor at the University of Mainz.

This excellent result represents a success rate of 32 percent; whereas of the total number of applications submitted, just 13 percent qualified for an ERC grant. In the list of German rankings, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft was followed by the Helmholtz Association and the University of Heidelberg, which each received five Advanced Grants. The two Munich universities, the Ludwig Maximilians Universität and the Technische Universität München, each received four. With a total of 32 grants awarded after four calls for applications since the ERC first began to award funding, the MPG was unable to maintain its second place among the top 10 most successful institutions in Europe and the associated states, after it was overtaken by the University of Cambridge with 33 grants. The MPG is now on an equal footing with the University of Oxford. Leading the field in Europe is still the French research organisation Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), which has received a total of 38 Advanced Grants, despite submitting only four successful projects in the latest round.

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