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Two Slovenian researchers win European Research Council starting grants

On Tuesday, the European Research Council (ERC) published the results of a call for proposals from researchers who are just beginning their research careers. Among the 3062 project proposals submitted, 408 were selected for funding, including two Slovenian projects.

Among the 3062 project proposals submitted, 408 were selected for funding, including two Slovenian projects | Author sanjeri-GettyImages/GulliverFilm&Foto

The two projects will be led by researchers Nejc Hodnik of the National Institute of Chemistry and Matjaž Humar of the Jožef Stefan Institute. “These two Slovenian researchers have succeeded not just in a European, but in a global competition, as applicants from 51 countries participated in this call. This is the biggest international response to this type of ERC call to date,” said sources at the Ministry of Education.

Dr Nejc Hodnik of the National Institute of Chemistry convinced the panel for physical and analytical chemistry to support his five-year project “123STABLE – Development of Highly Stable Nanostructured Electrocatalysts” with a grant of nearly EUR 1.5 million.

The primary objective of the project is to use a new approach to improve the stability of electrocatalysts, which is very important for the future electrification of society based on a hydrogen economy. The resources required for these processes are quite rare and unevenly distributed geographically. Therefore, weak catalyst stability, which leads to the inefficient consumption of these resources, represents an obstacle to a more sustainable method of generating electricity.

Dr Matjaž Humar of the Jožef Stefan Institute was awarded a grant by the evaluation panel for solid-state physics for his five-year project Cell-Lasers: Linking Optical Resonances with Biological Processes. The grant is also worth nearly EUR 1.5 million.

The basic purpose of the project is to research possibilities for the integration of lasers into live cells, which would significantly improve the study of complex processes in live cells in comparison with current methods. It would allow researchers to monitor events in individual cells in deep tissues, which would have a major impact on several fields, including medicine.

“We have found that the success rate for our applications has improved in the last few years, as Slovenia has won at least one project in ERC calls for proposals every year since 2015. This year, Slovenian research institutions have already had two projects funded with starting grants, and we are still waiting for the results of the other two calls, so we hope that this year’s successes are just beginning,” said sources at the Ministry.

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