UT professor received prestigious European research grant
Mart Loog, UT Professor of Molecular Systems Biology, received a prestigious Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC) amounting to almost two million euros. Loog is the fourth Estonian researcher to receive an elite ERC research grant.
The European Research Council supports fresh scientific ideas that introduce unconventional, innovative approaches in emerging fields of research. To achieve this aim, the ERC awards four types of grants, the only evaluation criterion of which is top-level research.
The ERC Starting Grant is awarded to early-stage researchers, the Consolidator Grant to already independent top researchers, the Advanced Grant to excellent established researchers and the Proof of Concept Grant to ERC grant holders to establish the innovation and marketing potential of ideas arising from their ERC-funded frontier research projects.
The ERC grants are the most prestigious research grants and thousands of top researchers apply for them each year. Vice Rector for Research of the University of Tartu Marco Kirm says that the received grant is a great recognition to both the university and Estonia, as the competition for ERC research grants is very strong.
This year, 372 Consolidator Grants were awarded, 12 of which to researchers from eastern Europe. “In the field of biosciences, only five grants went to eastern Europe. The fact that one of them came to Estonia proves that the field led by Mart Loog is rapidly developing on the international arena and confirms the high level of the researcher.”
Professor Loog is the first person from Estonia to receive the second-level ERC grant to support his further career and develop the field of synthetic biology and the centre of excellence in synthetic biology at the UT Institute of Technology.
Loog established his laboratory in 2006 after his post-doctoral training at the University of California. This was mostly thanks to starting grants from the US foundation Wellcome Trust and the US Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Loog says that the second-level ERC grant is a proof that the research laboratory and field launched with the aid of the starting grants has started to work successfully and efficiently.
Loog believes that research grants can help bring back Estonian researchers who have gone abroad, as currently many researchers of the new generation are about to settle in foreign countries. “I encourage all researchers to apply for research grants to build your own field of research in Estonia. If you try and apply, dreams may come true.“
In the past, three Estonian researchers have received the ERC grants. The Starting Grant was given to the UT Professor of International Law Lauri Mälksoo in 2009 and to Visiting Professor of the Laboratory of Cancer Biology Tambet Teesalu in 2011. The most exclusive of the ERC grants – the Advanced Grant – was given to Ülo Niinemets, Professor of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, in 2012.