Minister Simon Harris welcomes the first European Research Council Synergy Grant for Ireland, ‘4-OCEANS’

Posted: 5 November, 2020

Irish Research Council Awardees Professor Poul Holm and Professor Francis Ludlow to collaborate internationally on a ground-breaking €10.4 million project

Ireland has received its first ever frontier research project under the European Research Council’s Synergy Grant scheme. Announced today as part of a round of 34 grants for top researchers in Europe, the award of €10.4m represents one of the largest single ERC investments to date in frontier research projects involving Ireland-based researchers. Two researchers from Trinity College Dublin, Professor Poul Holm and Professor Francis Ludlow, have become Ireland’s first recipients of the grant and will collaborate with researchers in the UK and Portugal.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD said: “Many congratulations to the first Ireland-based ERC Synergy Grant recipients announced today. Their achievement reflects the world-class standard in our research system and stands as a testament to Ireland’s success and continuing potential in securing prestigious ERC funding. ERC awards represent the summit of frontier research excellence, and I am delighted that Ireland is sharing in European success across all career stages with Irish awardees amongst Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and now Synergy ERC Grant holders announced this year.”

The 4-OCEANS award also represents the largest single ERC investment in a Humanities and Social Sciences project in Ireland. Irish Research Council COALESCE awardee Professor Holm and IRC Laureate and former GOI postgraduate scholar Professor Ludlow have long contributed to the field of environmental history, and 4-Oceans will bring their expertise to bear in this transformative project. The project will assess the importance of marine life to human societies during the last two millennia, with a focus on understanding the consequences of marine resource exploitation for societal development. 4-OCEANS will consider how selected major socio-economic, cultural, and environmental forces variously constrained and enabled marine exploitation.

Professor Holm said: “We are excited to have secured this grant to embark on a fascinating and important project that will provide us with an unparalleled understanding of humanity’s recent interactions with the oceans, which will likely inform future symbioses with the many varied aspects of marine ecosystems that enrich and support us. 

“Specifically, combining history and archaeology with marine science and socioeconomics, the 4-OCEANS team will examine when and where marine exploitation was of significance to human society; how selected major socio-economic, cultural, and environmental forces variously constrained and enabled marine exploitation; and what were the consequences of marine resource exploitation for societal development.”

The highly sought-after ERC Synergy Grants support work that addresses major research challenges that would fall beyond the scope of any single ERC award and can only be tackled by collaborative approaches spanning multiple disciplines. James H. Barrett, Reader in Medieval Archaeology and Deputy Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, and Cristina Brito, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences and Deputy Director of CHAM – Centre for the Humanities, at NOVA University Lisbon, comprise the remaining members of the 4-OCEANS international research team.

Professor Ludlow added: “There are many avenues of research that we look forward to pursuing, but the most important goal of the project is to conduct the first ever globalised evaluation of the role of marine resources for societal development across two millennia, and thereby advance our understanding of the role of ocean life in human history.

“Long-term data and an understanding of changes in ecosystems and human behaviour over many centuries is critical to informing the continued development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Decade for the Oceans, from which the historical dimension is still missing. The 4-OCEANS project will ultimately introduce much-needed chronological depth to how we view urgent societal and environmental issues across the globe, through the understanding of our past.”

IRC Support on “Path to Success”

Also commenting today, Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, highlighted the IRC’s role in supporting researchers such as Professor Holm and Professor Ludlow in their journey towards international success.

“This project is ground-breaking in its ambition and scale, and I have no doubt it will have a profound impact on the understanding of humanity’s interactions with the oceans for decades to come. The Council is delighted to have supported Professor Holm and Professor Ludlow on their path to ERC Synergy Grant success. Competition within Europe for these awards is intense, with a success rate of only 8%.

The Council’s portfolio of awards, in particular the Laureate Awards, support individual researchers across all disciplines to become leaders in their fields, both nationally and internationally. The IRC Laureate Awards are modelled on the ERC schemes to provide a stepping-stone to ERC success. Professor Ludlow’s success today will make him the 5th Laureate to have been awarded ERC funding since 2018.”

The 4-OCEANS project is also featured on the ERC website.

Data Protection Notice

Please read our updated Data Protection Notice.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy page

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone.