From lab to market: 5 Italian projects received ERC Proof of Concept grants
Exploring and enhancing the commercial potential of fundamental research is the objective of the Proof of Concept grants, awarded to projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC).
The results of the last round of the Proof of Concept 2018 call were recently published on the ERC website showing that 5 out of 50 Italian projects were selected for funding.
Milan is well represented with three selected projects. Two of these projects are hosted by Politecnico di Milano: Fluo-Industrial implementation of a step-change technology to measure fluorescence, led by Dario Polli, and MOAB-Miniaturised optically accessible bioreactor for drug discovery and biological research, coordinated by Manuela Teresa Raimondi. The AST-Automatic System Testing project is carried out by Leonardo Mariani at the University of Milano-Bicocca.
Grants were also awarded to two projects in the fields of health and life sciences: EASY-IPS-A rapid and efficient method for generation of iPSC, led by Nicola Brunetti-Pierri at Fondazione Telethon, and ASTAOMEGA-Implementation of a sustainable and competitive system to simultaneously produce Astaxanthin and Omega-3, led by Matteo Ballottari at the University of Verona, respectively.
Overall, in this round of selection, the ERC has awarded researchers working in 16 countries. The top countries in terms of number of funded projects are the United Kingdom and Spain, with 7 grants, followed by France, with 6 grants, and Italy. Belgium, Israel, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Finland, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland and Slovakia are behind.
The projects awarded by the ERC cover a variety of topics and objectives: from revealing how personalized algorithms work on social media platforms to using “organoids” to test treatments for late stage cancer; from creating low cost, green batteries to developing more efficient wind turbines.
One of the Italian projects awarded has promising applications in a range of strategic sectors including pharmacology, environmental monitoring, food safety and medical diagnostics. The project’s name is Fluo, led by Dario Polli, whose research group at Politecnico di Milano has patented an innovative spectrofluorimeter – a device used to measure fluorescence – about ten times smaller and faster than others already on the market.
By drastically reducing the size and costs, the device developed at PoliMi could revolutionize the market of spectrofluorimeters, which led the ERC to award 150,000 euro in funding to Polli’s group. The grant will be used to launch a start-up, based in Milan, which will deal with bringing the discovery to market.