Imperial academics win 6million of ERC funding

Dr Cecilia Mattevi won 2million to study nanomaterials

Dr Cecilia Mattevi won 2million to study nanomaterials

Three Imperial scientists have won significant funding from the European Research Council (ERC) to be ’truly creative in their research’.

The ERC has announced their latest wave of Consolidator Grants funding - worth 573 million in total - which will be distributed to top researchers across Europe.

We are encouraging colleagues to keep applying for new European grants, as we campaign for continued access to European research programmes after Brexit. Professor Nick Jennings Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise)


The three Imperial academics have won around 6 million (5.3m) between them to further their research in materials, biomedicine and computing. Each project lasts five years and will help the researchers expand their teams.

Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) Professor Nick Jennings said: “This latest success recognises Imperial’s outstanding researchers as among the best in Europe.

"These grants are highly sought after and Imperial is consistently one of the top recipients in Europe.

“These projects demonstrate our ambitions to collaborate and work even closer with partners in Europe.

“That is why we are supporting and encouraging colleagues to keep applying for new European grants, as we campaign for continued access to European research programmes after Brexit.”

The ERC announced the following awards:

  • Dr Cecilia Mattevi, Department of Materials, Additive manufacturing of 2D nanomaterials for on-chip technologies. Project grant of approximately 2million.
  • Dr Alfonso De Simone, Department of Life Sciences, Order and Disorder at the Surface of Biological Membranes. Project grant of approximately 2million.
  • Dr Cristian Cadar, Department of Computing, Program Analysis for Safe and Secure Software Evolution. Project grant of approximately 2million.

Pioneering Nanomaterials

Dr Mattevi’s project focuses on creating miniaturized energy conversion and energy storage devices confined over small-footprints to enable self-powered on-chip technologies adaptable to ‘smart environments’ such as flexible substrates, smart textiles and the human body.

This funding will enable Dr Mattevi, who is a Royal Society University Research Fellow, to expand her team, establish the new 3D nanoscience and engineering laboratory, and taking the next steps in licensing and partnership with industry.

Dr Mattevi said: “I will pioneer new additive manufacturing to fabricate traditionally known macro-scale devices, in miniaturized dimensions and over the 3D space.

“The ability of these devices to exhibit high performance in miniaturized scale is enabled by a class of 2D atomically thin materials, which present a unique combination of electronic, chemical and structural properties different from many traditionally used bulk materials.”

Understanding membrane proteins

Dr De Simone’s project focuses on the characterisation of membrane proteins.

Dr De Simone said “These are essential molecules for function and disease but our ability to study their molecular and structural properties is currently limited to rigid regions of these proteins.”

His team will develop an interdisciplinary project across experiments and theory to characterise the highly dynamical and disordered regions of membrane proteins, which often are the key components of these molecules for their biological activity.

Dr De Simone said: “The ability to characterise disordered regions in membrane proteins will enable understanding of the underlying mechanisms of cellular function as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cancer.

It is an excellent opportunity to engage in long-term research visions with high-risk and high-gain value. Dr Alfonso De Simone Reader in Structural Biology


“Applications will go beyond the biomedical context, as the ability to study, and eventually control, disordered protein regions at the surface of membranes can impact fields such as biomaterial sciences and synthetic biology.

“It is an excellent opportunity to engage in long-term research visions with high-risk and high-gain value.

"The extraordinary aspect of ERC is that it enabled me to propose a research programme that is not constrained by any guideline on expected scientific remit.

“It gives a total freedom on the proposed projects and this is an opportunity to exploit ideas that can possibly face difficultly being funded if not falling into the remits of national funding agencies.”

Project collaborators include research labs in Cambridge, Italy, USA and Switzerland.

Safe and secure software systems

The five-year PASS project (Program Analysis for Safe and Secure Software Evolution) led by Dr Cristian Cadar aims to help software systems evolve safely and securely.

Dr Cadar said: “Software constantly evolves to implement new features, adapt to new hardware and platforms, fix bugs and security vulnerabilities, or improve non-functional properties such as performance and energy consumption.

“While these changes have an overall positive impact, they are also responsible for a large number of critical bugs and security attacks.

This ERC grant is a phenomenal opportunity that will provide me with significant time and resources to work on research problems that I am excited about. Dr Cristian Cadar Reader in Software Reliability


“PASS takes a holistic approach to the challenges of safe and secure software evolution, by combining offline program analysis techniques to validate software changes, with runtime mechanisms for keeping the software updated and secure against potentially erroneous changes that make it into the deployed system.

“This ERC grant is a phenomenal opportunity that will provide me with significant time and resources to work on research problems that I am excited about.

"It will help me to strengthen my existing collaborations in this research area, as well as establish new ones.”

Creative research

The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise.

The funding is provided for up to five years and mostly covers the employment of researchers and other staff to consolidate the grantees’ teams.

The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: "This ERC funding will allow ambitious scientists to establish or strengthen their teams in Europe and be truly creative in their research.

"Beyond a push to the grantees’ careers, this European support will offer an excellent working environment for younger researchers at doctoral and post-doctoral levels.

"We look forward to see many of these daring ideas come to fruition, to the benefit of Europe at large."

The ERC selects and funds the very best, creative researchers to run projects based in Europe. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or Imperial College London.

Stephen Johns
Communications and Public Affairs