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Two ERC Starting Grants to Stockholm University

Mika Sipponen and Michael Grätz at Stockholm University are awarded with the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants.

Four hundred eight researchers have won this year’s European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The funding is worth in total €636 million and part of the Horizon Europe programme. It will help excellent younger scientists, who have 2 to 7 years’ experience after their PhDs, to launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their most promising ideas. This call for proposals attracted nearly 3,000 proposals, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchers from around the world.

Twelwe researchers in Sweden have been awarded grants. Two of these grants go to researchers at Stockholm University. These researchers are Mika Sipponen, assistant professor at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry (MMK) and Michael Grätz, associate professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI). Each of them will receive grants worth EUR 1.5 million.

 

Mika Sipponen: Research on lignin

Mika Sipponen
Mika Sipponen is awarded a Starting Grant for research on lignin. Photo: Sören Andersson

Mika Sipponen, assistant professor and docent at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, is awarded a Starting Grant for the project Circular lignin materials from well-defined functional building blocks (CIRCULIG).

Lignin is nature’s wonder material that allows trees to grow vertically and have strong and biochemically resilient structures. However, forest industry currently burns the majority of lignin in their energy and chemical recovery processes. “I want show that lignin can be used as a building block for materials that can be recycled, and this way extend the lifecycle of forest products”, says Mika Sipponen.

If successful, this project opens wholly new frontiers for sustainable lignin-based materials that combine function and design for recycling. “I am confident to build this new team to develop these materials that have attractive properties for example as catalysts and reversible adhesives”, Sipponen describes. There will be several far-reaching implications beyond materials chemistry, as the planned work resonates to interdisciplinary research across chemistry, engineering, and life sciences.

Sipponen adds:
“I feel privileged to have been awarded the ERC Starting Grant. This grant is a reward for the work carried by my past and present group members who share my passion in our research on sustainable materials chemistry. I am indebted for my colleagues as well as the ERC panel members and anonymous grant reviewers who ensured long-term support for our research.”

Read more on Mika Sipponen´s research.

 

Michael Grätz: Research on equality of opportunity

Michael Grätz
Michael Grätz is awarded a Starting Grant for research on equality. Photo: Elisabeth van de Schootbrugge.

Michael Grätz, associate professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research, is awarded a Starting Grant for the project Liberal and Radical Equality of Opportunity (EQUALOPP).

How are advantages in resources such as education, occupation, income, and wealth passed on from one generation to another? This research is motivated by the idea that the intergenerational transmission of advantageous resources is at odds with the normative ideal of equality of opportunity. However, the relationship between the normative ideal of equality of opportunity and the empirical measures of intergenerational transmission is rarely made explicit and many researchers in this field avoid using a normative language and referring to equality of opportunity altogether.

This project will address this major limitation of research on social stratification. The first innovation of EQUALOPP is to acknowledge that different conceptions of equality of opportunity, motivated by the literature in sociology, philosophy, political science, and economics, have to be distinguished. Here a distinction is made between liberal and radical equality of opportunity.

The second innovation is that Michael Grätz relate these different conceptions of equality of opportunity to different empirically measurable concepts. The project will measure these empirical concepts using multiple data sources from five European countries and the United States.

The empirical analyses will address three questions of major importance for the social sciences:
(1) Do liberal and radical equality of opportunity vary across countries?
(2) Have liberal and radical equality of opportunity increased across cohorts?
(3) Can educational reforms and societal changes affect liberal and radical equality of opportunity?

“EQUALOPP will strongly advance our understanding of equality of opportunity. It will both broaden our theoretical understanding of equality of opportunity and provide new and more reliable empirical measures of equality of opportunity. Finally, the empirical analyses will provide an up-to-date picture of equality of opportunity in Europe and the United States,” says Michael Grätz.

What do you hope to achieve within the project?

"Equality of opportunity is a topic everyone cares about. The aim of the project is to improve upon the way we measure equality of opportunity in particular by acknowledging that different people have different ideas when they talk about equality of opportunity."

Read more on Michael Grätz research.