The four ERC Fellowships awarded to researchers at the University of Bath include two ERC Consolidator Grants, for researchers looking to consolidate their own research team or programme within 7-12 years of their PhD, one ERC Starting Grant awarded for promising Early Career Researchers, and one ERC Advanced Grant for well-established and outstanding scientists.

Dr Melanie Channon, Lecturer in Social Policy from the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant to explore ‘Menstrual justice in low- and middle-income countries: Achieving the right to a good period in policy and practice’.

Up to 800 million women and girls menstruate each day, yet the experience varies widely. Stigma, pain, lack of access to products, lack of information, and poor sanitation infrastructure can all result in negative impacts on physical, mental, and psychosocial wellbeing.

Dr Channon says:

Menstruation has long been neglected in both research and policy, but this is changing. The aim of this new project is to improve women and girl’s menstrual experiences and to reduce negative impacts of menstruation and related practices, focusing on low- and middle-income countries and conducting primary research in Nepal and Guatemala.

The research team will develop a framework and theory of menstrual justice, bringing together the many injustices related to menstruation and putting the needs and experience of woman and girls at the centre. They will also conduct a cluster randomised controlled trial to study the effectiveness of an intervention to address menstrual pain.

More on this research.

Also from the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, an ERC Consolidator Grant worth €2 million has been awarded to Dr Rosana Machado to investigate the nexus between labour precariousness and authoritarian politics in Brazil, India and the Philippines. Dr Machado, Principal Investigator and one of two recipients of an ERC Consolidator Grant at the University, says:

Growing evidence shows that emerging, aspirational classes in these countries have supported authoritarian leaders; we want to interrogate why and how this occurs…When we consider economic growth in emerging economies, we also need to understand how low-income groups build their aspirations and dreams on upwards social mobility. Our project aims to understand how authoritarian populists recruit supporters in this way, amplifying messages about individualism, entrepreneurship, and wealth-creation via social media.

This comparative research looks at how the political landscape and aspirations are culturally and technologically shaped in different countries and platforms, involving academic colleagues in Brazil, India, the Philippines, and the UK.

More on this research.

Professor Hendrik Weber, Department of Mathematical Sciences, has also been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant worth nearly €2 million. The funding will enable him to lead a research team to analyse the global behaviour of solutions to Stochastic Partial Differential Equations (SPDEs) from Mathematical Physics, which contain ‘noise terms’ describing random fluctuations and act on all length scales. Professor Weber, Principal Investigator, says:

A subtle renormalisation procedure, which amounts to removing infinite terms, is needed to treat these important equations. Over the last years the understanding of non-linear SPDEs has been revolutionised and a systematic treatment of the renormalisation procedure has been achieved. In this project, I will describe the global behaviour of solutions of some of the most prominent examples, by combining PDE techniques for the non-linear equations without noise and the improved understanding of the subtle small-scale stochastic cancellations.

Professor Chris Bowen, Associate Dean for Research in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded a €2.5 million Advanced Grant from the ERC on the Processing of Smart Porous Electro-Ceramic Transducers (ProSPECT). Ferroelectrics are an important class of electro-active material to the EU, where their properties are exploited for sensing, energy harvesting, and SONAR. However, porosity in ferroelectric materials is currently viewed as a defect.

This Advanced Grant will establish that porosity can be used positively to produce a step change in performance. ProSPECT will develop new modelling tools and manufacturing processes for the design and production of porous ferroelectrics. This will allow the creation of advanced materials with properties tailored to their application – to include mechanical and thermal sensing, energy harvesting, SONAR, and emerging applications such as water treatment.

Professor Bowen says:

I am delighted and humbled since it is the second time that I have been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. I am looking forward to begin undertaking exciting research on porous ferroelectrics for the next five years.

Dr Alex Harrison, Research Development Manager in Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Bath, worked with the researchers to develop their successful funding bids, alongside Dr Caroline Ang, Institute Manager at Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI) who supported Professor Weber. Dr Harrison says:

It is unprecedented for the University to receive four Fellowships from the European Research Council (ERC) in such a short space of time and I congratulate the applicants on their awards. It is understandable with the ongoing delays to UK Association to the Horizon Europe programme that there have been concerns from academics regarding the likelihood for UK success in European research applications. It is extremely encouraging to see that we not only continue to be successful here, but have seen an increase in awarded European funding through the 2021 calls. I would strongly encourage all academics to consider the Horizon Europe programme as a genuine and accessible source of research funding, and am happy to offer support to anyone considering applying for these grants.