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Brussels, 12 March 2008

The European Science Awards

This year's European Research Awards were presented today at a ceremony in Brussels by European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. Awarded together for the first time, the three Prizes – the " Science Communication Prize", the "Marie Curie Excellence Awards", and the EUR 1.36 Million "Descartes Prize for Transnational Collaborative Research" – recognize outstanding scientific achievements by leading EU researchers, and shining examples of how to make science accessible and compelling to large audiences.


Launched in 2000, the Descartes Prize for Transnational Collaborative Research is open to cross-border research teams that have achieved exceptional scientific or technological results through collaborative research in any field of science, including economics, social sciences and humanities, whether funded via EU Research Programmes or not. Winning teams, selected by a Grand Jury chaired by astronaut and neuroscientist Dr. Claudie Haigneré, Senior Adviser to the Director-General of the European Space Agency, share a total of EUR 1,360,000.

The three winners are:

VIRLIS project. This consortium of 8 EU research teams, led by Prof. Pascale Cossart from Institut Pasteur (France), developed new strategies to fight both old and new health threats through the detailed study of a major food pathogen, listeria. Offering innovative approaches to combating infection at a time when antibiotics have become less effective, the team's multidisciplinary work illustrates Europe's leadership in global research on infection biology.

Pascale Cossart, Institut Pasteur, FR

Jürgen Wehland, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, DE

Trinad Chakraborty, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, DE

Jürgen Kreft, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, DE

Fernando Baquero, Hospital Ramón y Cajal, ES

José Antonio Vazquez-Boland, Universidad de León, ES

Francisco García del Portillo, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, ES

SYNNANOMOTORS project. Harnessing the power of nanobiotechnology, this consortium of 6 transnational and multidisciplinary European research teams, led by Prof. David Leigh of Edinburgh University (UK), developed the first functional examples of synthetic motors on a molecular scale and many other potentially useful and innovative nanomachines.

David Leigh, University of Edinburgh, UK

François Kajzar, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, FR

Fabio Biscarini, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, IT

Francesco Zerbetto, Università di Bologna (Dipt. Chimica), IT

Wybren Jan Buma, Universiteit van Amsterdam, NL

Petra Rudolf, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, NL

EPICA project. This large-scale research project for ice coring in Antarctica, involves 12 leading EU polar research teams, coordinated by Prof. Hubertus Fischer from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven (Germany). EPICA has contributed radical breakthroughs in our understanding of climate change, by retrieving continuous ice cores which have extended the earth's historical climate record back 800.000 years.

Hubertus Fischer, Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, DE

Jean-Louis Tison, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE

Thomas Stocker, University of Bern, CH

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, University of Copenhagen, DK

Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/ Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, FR

Gérard Jugie, Institut Polaire Paul Emile Victor, FR

Massimo Frezzotti, Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente, IT

Valter Maggi, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, IT

Michiel van den Broeke, Universiteit Utrecht, NL

Elisabeth Isaksson, Norwegian Polar Institute, NO

Margareta Hansson, Stockholm University, SE

Eric Wolff, Natural Environment Research Council, UK


The European Science Communication Prize was launched in 2004 to help stimulate interest in research, promote the understanding of science and its implication in society, boost scientific culture and encourage young Europeans to engage in scientific careers. Categories include best Science Communicator, best Science Writer, and best Audiovisual Documentary.

The three winners, selected by a Panel of Reviewers chaired by Dr. Suzanne de Cheveigné, from the National Centre for Scientific Research (France), receive EUR 60,000 each, with two finalists receiving EUR 5,000.

  • The three winners are:

Jean-Pierre Luminet (France). A well-known astrophysicist and cosmologist, Prof. Jean-Pierre Luminet is also an exceptional science communicator. Working through print, TV, exhibitions, music and other arts, he delivers accessible information of the highest quality and intelligence, and communicates the fascination of scientific research to audiences across cultures and ages.

Delphine Grinberg (France). A best selling author of children books and interactive exhibition designer, Delphine Grinberg has devoted her whole professional career to helping the young learn about the world around them. Skilled at stimulating young minds and children's natural curiosity, she successfully shares the excitement of discovery with young readers.

"Most of the Universe is Missing"/Peter Leonard (UK). Trained as a scientist, Peter Leonard joined the BBC as producer and director for the BBC "flagship" science TV magazine Horizon. His critically acclaimed documentary "Most of our Universe is Missing’", which wins this year's "Audiovisual Documentary of the Year", sets out to explain the true nature of the Universe in a programme that has been described as “mind bogglingly clever”, yet explained the most abstract and theoretical aspects of cosmology and astrophysics difficult concepts with a brilliant, and often humorous, clarity.

  • The two finalists are:

Nuno Crato (Portugal) is a regular contributor of articles to newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes. He brings a scientific perspective on a wide variety of current news and events to a vast audience. He is also the author of best-selling popular science books and takes a leading role in bringing the fascination of mathematics to the general public.

"Intérieur corps" (France). A 3D multimedia exploration of the human body, "Intérieur corps" ("Inside the Body"), produced by Henri-Louis Poirier and commissioned by Maud Livrozet, is the joint winner in the category "Audiovisual Documentary of the Year". A critical and popular hit at the Cité des Science et de l’Industrie in Paris, it uses the latest medical imaging technologies and state-of-the-art production, to lead audiences on an educational journey that takes them through all parts of their body –incorporating the viewer’s own body as part of the experience!

Marie Curie Excellence Awards

Established in 2003, the Marie Curie Excellence Awards recognize outstanding achievements by scientists that have reached a level of exceptional excellence in their field. Researchers of any nationality and in all fields of research are eligible provided they have benefited from one of the EU funded researcher career support schemes. These Marie Curie Actions aim to widen researchers’ prospects and promote excellence in EU research. The Grand Jury is chaired by Prof. Mary Osborn from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Germany). Winners, who each receive a EUR 50,000 prize, come from 4 different countries. Three of them currently work in a country other than their home country, with two others having returned home after a considerable time abroad.

Luisa Corrado (Italy). Can economic growth make us all feel happier? Increased individual wealth can make life easier, but does it make our life more satisfying? And how can policy decisions affect our feeling of well-being? By developing novel economic analysis techniques the EURECONAW project shines new light on these age-old questions that could help direct EU and national policy-makers towards activities that can truly impact on the well-being of society.

Batu Erman (Turkey). A possible way to combat cancer is to better understand the transcriptional regulation of genes that are important for development and signaling of lymphoid cells of the immune system. Dr Erman’s new laboratory at Sabanci University in Istanbul, established with expertise previously not available in Turkey, uses molecular, cellular and immuno-biology techniques to study specific signal transduction mechanisms in lymphocytes.

Andrea Ferrari (Italy). During his Marie Curie-sponsored PhD at Cambridge University, he worked on ultra-thin carbon films, a critical part of the hard drive technology, at the heart of many consumer electronics. This was just the start of a successful career for the young researcher that combines fundamental multi-disciplinary science with a keen eye for application and innovation.

Robert Nichol (UK). Dark Energy is one of the great mysteries of modern science. It is used in cosmology to help explain the expansion of the Universe that appears to be accelerating rather than decelerating as previously expected. Over the decade since its discovery, Prof. Robert Nichol has focused on the stuff of dark energy, first by confirming its existence using independent methods and, more recently, by studying its properties, and working to reveal its true physical nature.

Valerie O’Donnell (UK). Study of the role of messenger molecules derived from lipids in inflammation and the function of body’s immune cells is opening new therapeutic routes for a variety of medical conditions. The role of small molecules such as nitric oxide (NO) and lipid peroxides is of particular interest to Dr Valerie O’Donnell. An early Marie Curie fellowship helped to launch her on a career that has taken her to the leading edge of global research in that field.

See also IP/08/438

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