Nottingham scientist one of bright minds selected for European Research Council funding

Tuesday, 05 September 2023

A plant scientist from the University of Nottingham has been selected from over 3,000 applicants to receive funding for research into how roots adapt in dry and compacted soils, which could help in the development of climate resistant crops.

Dr Bipin Pandey from the School of Biosciences is one of 408 researchers who have won this year’s European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The funding is worth in total €636 million and part of the Horizon Europeprogramme. The programme aims to help excellent younger scientists, who have 2 to 7 years’ experience after theirPhDs, to launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their most promising ideas.

The grants will be invested in scientific projects spanning all disciplines of research from engineering to life sciences to humanities.

Hard compacted soils have emerged as a critical problem in modern agriculture, leading to major losses in crop yield. Heavier farm machinery causes hard soil layers to form that are difficult for crop roots to penetrate. This challenge is exacerbated when coupled with periods of drought, as roots struggle to penetrate compacted soil, leading to losses of billions of Euros each year.

In a ground-breaking initiative, Dr Pandey will explore how roots sense and adapt to hard soils, generating new knowledge that will underpin efforts to engineer more soil stress resilient crops. Using state-of-the-art multidisciplinary approaches, Dr Pandey aims to discover how roots sense and respond to complex soil environments as they grow through softer and harder layers. This ERC grant will help reveal the underlying design principles of how root tips sense the physical soil environments and modify their growth to punch through hard soils.

By deciphering the intricate interplay between roots and the soil they inhabit, this ERC grant aspires to cultivate a future where crops and their yields are more resilient. As the world grapples with climate change and the urgent need to deliver food security, Dr Pandey's research delivers a ray of hope for a more sustainable future.

I am honoured to have been selected for this prestigious funding, especially as I know there are so many strong applications from across the globe. The funding will really help me to accelerate my research which I hope will bring us closer to understanding how we can adapt roots to meet the growing demands of climate change, which is essential if we are to feed an ever-growing population sustainably.
Dr Bipin Pandey, School of Biosciences

The laureates of this grant competition proposed to carry out their projects at universities and research centres in 26 countries across Europe, mostly in Germany (81 projects), UK (70), Netherlands (40) and France (39). There are nationals of 46 countries among the winners of this call, notably Germans (70 researchers), Italians (41), Israeli (30) and Dutch

(28). This call for proposals attracted nearly 3,000 proposals, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchersfrom around the world. The grants will create more than 2,000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, and other staff at the host institutions.

The statistics and final list of successful candidates are provisional. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom allows for associating the UK to the current EU research and innovationfunding programme, Horizon Europe, subject to the adoption of a Protocol. As this Protocol has not been adopted sofar, the UK is still considered “non-associated” to Horizon Europe. Therefore, the successful proposals of applicants based in a country in the process of associating to Horizon Europe will be eligible for funding only if the relevantHorizon Europe association agreement applies by the time of the signature of the grant agreement. However, successful applicants from UK host institutions can still be funded, provided that they move to a host institution in an eligible country.

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Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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