ERC grants for top TU researchers

The gap between academic research and commercial applications can sometimes be difficult to bridge.
The European Research Council’s (ERC) Proof of Concept grant purports to do just this, providing grantees eighteen months and €150 thousand to explore what the ERC calls the ‘innovation potential’ of their research.

The third round of results was announced 22 January and among the two of the 135 recipients are researchers from TU Delft; Professor Ruud van Ommen and Professor Andrea Neto.

To be eligible for a Proof of Concept grant, applicants must have previously received ERC funding. In 2011 Neto obtained a Starting Grant to research high frequency antennas and Terahertz (THz) radiation, with which he started the THz Sensing group, housed in the Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science faculty. Van Ommen who is working with researchers in the Applied Sciences faculty’s Product and Process Engineering group, also received an ERC Starting Grant in 2011 to develop research on coating nanoparticles using Atomic Layer Deposition.

When asked how they plan to show the commercial value of their earlier research, Van Ommen explained, “What we would like to do with the generic technology we developed is to make better catalysts, especially for biomass conversion.” The THz Sensing group will use the proof of concept funding to further develop one of the three concepts established with Neto’s original grant; Artificial Electric Layers. Both researchers consider funding efforts to connect academic research with its’ commercial applications fundamental. “When you do things that are technologically very difficult, if it’s only us who understand their power, it’s not very useful to society,” explained Neto. Van Ommen also emphasised that for this type of funding to be effective, “it should have enough vision behind it and not just be troubleshooting for short term needs of industry”.

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