The ERC has announced the results of the third and final round of the Proof of Concept Grants competition of 2022 and 90 new winning projects on 24 January 2023. It put the total number of grantees who received this top-up innovation funding in two separate calls under the ERC last year’s work programme to 366.

New way to predict Sun’s dangerous activity

Predicting Sun’s activity and space weather is a long-standing problem. Solar flares, coronal mass ejections or geomagnetic storms affect communications and radio navigation, impact electric power grids and may be dangerous to the electronics of spacecraft and unprotected astronauts.

ERC grantee Maarit Korpi-Lagg together with her team at the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University and at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research propose to develop a novel data analysis pipeline and products based on the internal surface gravity oscillation mode, that can help predict solar activity and space weather with a greater accuracy than ever before.

Earlier prediction methods have relied on magnetic fields on the solar surface or in the interplanetary space. During her ongoing research on stellar dynamos, Prof. Korpi-Lagg and her team modelled and observed the sub-surface magnetic field in the Sun and formulated methodology to build prediction tools based on it, both over short and long timescales.

Project: Solar cYcle prediCtion tool using sOlar internal oscillations (SYCOS)

Researcher: Maarit Korpi-Lagg

Host institution: Aalto University, Finland

ERC grant: 150.000 euro for 18 months

Original ERC frontier research project: Building up a Unified Theory of Stellar Dynamos (UniSDyn) – ERC Consolidator Grant 2018 (Hosted by Aalto University, Finland & Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany).

Making cancer killer cells faster and cheaper

Our immune system evolved to protect our bodies from different invaders and to fight against infections and diseases. Unluckily, cancer cells often develop tricks enabling them to evade this protecting machinery and to survive and proliferate.

Immunotherapy employs the power of the immune system to fight cancer by boosting or re-education of immune cells. One of the approaches, the adoptive cell transfer therapy, especially in the form of genetically modified immune cells so called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) cells, has shown an unprecedented success. However, production of modified CAR cells is problematic, inefficient, time consuming and costly.

ERC grantee Milan Vrabel will use new technology, developed in the course of his ERC-funded research on glycans, and combine metabolic engineering and biocompatible chemical labelling to produce antibody-modified natural killer cells for use in immunotherapy. Prof Vrabel’s team at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences will test and evaluate the new approach and bring it to the next step of patent licensing or developing the technology further within spin-out company.

Project: Chemical Engineering of Natural Killer Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy (CHEMCELL)

Researcher: Milan Vrabel

Host institution: Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia

ERC grant150.000 euro for 18 months

Original ERC frontier research project: Smart Biologics: Developing New Tools in Glycobiology (SWEETOOLS) – ERC Starting Grant 2015.

Web browser plug-in to tackle distrust in media

Trust in mainstream media has been declining steadily across the world. The trend is fuelled by the perception that news companies are not truly independent but serve the interests of owners, advertisers or creditors. Many media outlets insulate editorial decisions from external pressures, but ordinary citizens have no means to know. Hence, distrust in a few “bad apples” risks extending to the entire industry.

WiseReader is ERC grantee Ruben Durante’s answer to this problem. Based on the research carried out under his Starting Grant project, he is proposing a web browser extension allowing online users to learn about the potential conflicts of interest faced by the news outlets. The plug-in would identify companies and individuals featured in a news article as well as relevant connections between them and the news outlet. It would then display the results using an intuitive system of coloured flags and offer comprehensive information about these connections on a dedicated website.

The project promises to empower ordinary citizens allowing them to discern what news sources and stories ought to be trusted. It may also allow quality news outlets to distinguish themselves from others and improve their reputation and traffic.

Project: Boosting trust in online media by instantly informing users about conflicts of interest (WiseReader)

Researcher: Ruben Durante

Host institution: Pompeu Fabra University, Spain

ERC grant150.000 euro for 18 months

Original ERC frontier research project: Independence and quality of mass Media in the InteRnet AGE (MIRAGE) – ERC Starting Grant 2017.

Source: European Research Council I News (