Two academics awarded ERC grants up to €150,000


Professor Frederic Dias from the School of Mathematical Sciences and Professor Debra Laefer from School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering have been awarded supplementary funding for their research as part of the European Research Council’s (ERC) the Proof of Concept Awards.


The two academics already hold ERC grants, but have received further funding to bring their ‘blue sky’ project closer to the market.

EU Commissioner for Research Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan Quinn showed her enthusiasm for the project saying, “The funding will help turn ideas into innovation. The ERC ‘Proof of Concept’ grants encourage a new type of thinking amongst researchers, backing them to make the most of their blue sky research. This mindset will help European recovery and improve our quality of life.”

Prof. Laefer has described her research as being “committed to helping solve the growing problems of urbanisation.” She defined the purpose of her research as protecting above ground structures during sub-surface construction; to help prevent the present issues arising around the use of CAD for engineers. These issues include data loss and data corruption.

She also described her long-term goals to go from laser scanning to the 3D printing in the same way we go from laser scanning to the computer models. She described the grant awarded research she has been working on since 2006, as a high-risk task. “Chances for failure is higher, but if you succeed, your chance of having a bigger impact is higher. High risk for a high reward.”

Prof. Dias described his wave-based research, stating, “I have two big projects, one on wave energy and the other one on the modelling and the prediction of extreme wave events; especially rogue waves.”

He suggests that his research will change the way we measure and study waves. “These events we are studying are rare; they are quite localised in space and in time. That means that if we want to understand the statistics of these events, we need to do a lot of experiments, which can be done in optics, but it cannot be done in the ocean.”

Prof. Dias suggested that our current methods of studying waves are inefficient due to wave buoys only measuring waves up to ten metres and very little data being collected.

He describes his doubts about the statistics from these wave buoys due to the data being already processed. He also explained the various benefits that will come from his research that will benefit both his academic research, but has commercial applications too, such as “harbour and coastal monitoring, coastal engineering, offshore design and operations, maritime traffic control, and climate change.”