Sheffield's European Research Council (ERC) successes

The European Research Council (ERC) supports the best and most creative scientists to identify and explore new opportunities and directions in any field of research, without thematic priorities on the basis of Europe-wide competition. Excellence is the sole evaluation criterion.

ERC Info


The University of Sheffield has been awarded 35 of the highly prestigious ERC grants valued at approximately £47M since 2007.


Find out more about some of our ERC awardees and their ERC projects

Gill Valentine

The ERC funding has been hugely important in enabling me to develop an interdisciplinary team of researchers at different career stages to address the important societal challenge of how we might develop the capacity for difference. It has enabled to work with a range of non-academic stakeholders and communities in both the UK and Poland which I hope will help us to generate findings that make a difference from the local to the European scale.

Professor Gill Valentine


Name of Principal Investigator: Professor Gill Valentine
Scheme: Advanced Investigator grant (2009)
Department: Geography
Title of Project: Living with Difference in Europe - Making Communities out of Strangers in an era of super-mobility and super-diversity (LIVEDIFFERENCE)


What is the project about?

We are witnessing unprecedented levels of mobility (within and beyond the European Union) and population change. In this context, how we develop the capacity to live with difference is the key question of the 21st century. It is this fundamental research question which this proposal addresses (an issue that is particularly pertinent given rising levels of insecurity generated by post 9/11 terrorism and the current global financial crisis). This will be achieved by the generation of a new body of information and understanding about the extent and nature of everyday encounters with difference through five inter-linked projects, each collecting original empirical data in the UK and Poland. My vision is to advance the theorization of meaningful contact by using this data about spatial practices of encounter and intersectionality to shed new light on mostly unevidenced interdisciplinary theories of cosmopolitanism; and to develop further an innovative social topographic approach for transcending conventional comparative research perspectives by producing a sophisticated model of the complex webs of connection across the research locations, integrating the findings from a post-colonial and post-communist state. I will develop new horizons in methodological practice through the development of biographical timelines, and audio diaries to capture qualitative longitudinal data; video-elicitation of encounters with difference; and radical spatial experiments to create meaningful contact. The findings will provide an integrated evidence base about everyday understandings of difference and spatial practices of encounter that will inform, and nuance, European policies and strategies for living with difference. This programme will be unique internationally and will open up new directions in the interdisciplinary study of cosmopolitanism.

Read more about Gill Valentine's ERC story.

Ton Jurriaan

In my view, the major value of ERC is that it is one of the last strongholds for basic research. At times in which our national research councils are increasingly pushing us into translational directions, ERC allows us to explore purely fundamental research questions beyond the boundaries of conventional knowledge. Although often slow and unpredictable, fundamental research is the only way by which we can guarantee long-term societal innovation as it generates the building blocks for translational and applied research.

Professor Jurriaan Ton

Name of Principal Investigator: Professor Jurriaan Ton
Scheme: Starting Investigator grant (2012)
Department: Animal and Plant Sciences
Title of Project: Priming of plant immunity: from its onset to trans-generational maintenance (PRIME-A-PLANT)


What is the project about?

Plant defence depends on speed: the sooner a plant recognises its attacker, the more effective its defence response will be. Over the course of evolution, plants have acquired the ability to prime their immune system after perception of specific environmental signals. This heightened state of defence enables a faster and/or stronger activation of inducible defence mechanisms after pathogen attack, providing resistance against a wide range of diseases. Based on a phenotypically similar response in human immune cells, this plant resistance response is called “defence priming”. The primed defence state is not accompanied with an increased expression of costly defence mechanisms. Consequently, broad-spectrum disease resistance by defence priming is not associated with major reductions in plant growth and reproduction. Furthermore, defence priming can be maintained over a relatively long period of time, which is why it is often regarded as a form of immunological plant memory. Despite these attractive properties for application in sustainable agriculture, there are still many unanswered questions about the mechanistic basis of defence priming. The main objective of this ERC proposal is to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning two poorly understood aspects of the phenomenon:

1. the onset of primed defence.
2. the long-term maintenance of primed defence, including the intriguing phenomenon that the primed defence state can be transmitted from pathogen-exposed plants to their progeny.

Using state-of-the-art techniques in the field of molecular biology, biochemistry, and (epi)genetics, this project will address the overarching question of how plants adapt their immune system to the conditions in their environment. This project will allow me to generate new insights in the regulation of plant defence and provide tools that can be used to develop novel strategies for sustainable crop protection.

Andrew Geddes

Migration is one of the world’s key global challenges. It is important now and without any shadow of a doubt it will be important in the future. We need to know more about how key individuals within governance systems, key institutions and organisations understand the issue of international migration, because by developing an understanding of this question we can contribute to debates about better responses in the future both at state level and at international level.

Professor Andrew Geddes


Name of Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Geddes
Scheme: Advanced Investigator grant (2013)
Department: Politics
Title of Project: Prospects for International Migration Governance (MIGPROSP)


What is the project about?

The MIGPROSP project begins from a relatively simple idea: we know quite a lot about why people move and we also know quite a lot about the legal and policy responses in the places to which they move. We know less about how people within these governance systems (politicians, officials and a range of other actors) understand international migration and how these understandings shape the possibilities and limits of migration governance.

The MIGPROSP project’s main aim is to know more about what could be called the ‘micro-political’ foundations that shape the context of choice for individuals within migration governance systems. The project then asks how this context of choice influences and shapes the capacity of governance systems to respond now and in the future to the challenges associated with international migration. Or put more simply, how do actors within these systems understand international migration? How susceptible are these understandings to change? And what do these understandings and possible change in them mean now and in the future for the governance of international migration at state, regional and international levels?

The MIGPROSP project will focus in particular on Europe, North America, South America and the Asia-Pacific region because of the significant variations in migration governance within these regions.

Professor Andrew Geddes speaks about his ERC project MIGPROSP - watch the video.

John Provis

To me, the ERC programme offers an unparalleled opportunity to put together a strong team to work on a long-term (5 year) project, driven purely by scientific excellence, to answer questions which are not only important to society, but also scientifically interesting and challenging. It's a highly competitive scheme, but extremely rewarding as well.

Professor John L. Provis


Name of Principal Investigator: Professor John L. Provis
Scheme: Starting Investigator grant (2013)
Department: Materials Science and Engineering
Title of Project: Durability of Geopolymers as 21st Century Concretes (GeopolyConc)


What is the project about?

The global construction industry is strongly interested in sustainable cement and concrete technologies, as a way to reduce its CO2 footprint. However, construction materials need to remain in service for decades or centuries, and so we need methods to predict their performance and durability without actually waiting for such a long time. So, we are combining accelerated testing of corrosion, nanostructural analysis and design of new cements, and mathematical modelling of service life, to provide confidence in the use of sustainable cements to produce durable concrete.