Batty about research
“The nature of ERC projects is to perform very exploratory and highly ambitious research,” says Sanvito, who is an associate professor at Trinity’s school of physics and deputy director of CRANN.
“(ERC funding) is really a tool to be able to realise your wildest idea, and for a researcher it’s the best-case scenario possible.”
CRANN is now home to multiple ERC awardees, including Prof Valeria Nicolosi, who is working on ultra-thin materials that are just a single atom thick.
She won an ERC grant last year and decided to move from Oxford University to Trinity to carry out the work, which aims to improve energy storage by using “two-dimensional” materials that offer plenty of surface area for their volume.
“The smaller you go down in scale the more surface area you will get and the material will get more reactive as well,” says Prof Nicolosi, who previously worked in Trinity and decided to come back. “It was not an easy decision – being a lecturer in Oxford might be the dream of many scientists,” she says. “But for nanoscience, for what I do, Ireland has got a lot to offer.”
Ireland has invested heavily in the life sciences and materials science, and this is reflected in the areas where we tend to win ERC funding, according to Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, executive director of CRANN.
He argues against the view that separates fundamental research and applied science, saying the two can co-exist even through the same person. “If you look at the ERC holders in recent years one assumes that by definition they are excellent in what they do in fundamental science. Meanwhile, many of them are involved in programmes with industry too,” he says. “If you trust the system by investing in excellence, either in fundamental or applied research, you will get everything you need to get back out.”
The nature of ERC projects is to perform very exploratory and highly ambitious research