Science researchers from the University of Aarhus among the European elite

Press releases 2008

Five out of six awards to Denmark from the European Research Council went to science researchers at the University of Aarhus.

The European Research Council (ERC) has just published the list of its first award of the extremely prestigious Advanced Grants for research – in the section of science research called Physical Sciences and Engineering. Denmark received two of a total of 105 grants, and both of these went to scientists at the Faculty of Science, University of Aarhus. The university is thus following up well on its success in the first distribution of awards earlier this year, when three young researchers from the Faculty of Science were awarded so-called Starting Grants.

Recipients of the two Advanced Grants are: Professor Flemming Besenbacher, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO) and Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Professor Ib Madsen, Department of Mathematical Sciences (moving to the University of Copenhagen on 1 September).

The extremely prestigious ERC research grants are intended to promote top-quality science in the EU by supporting and motivating the most talented and really innovative scientists. The research grants are personal and were awarded following a round of application and assessment in open competition with approximately 1000 other international researchers. The two Danish scientists will now commence negotiations regarding the final conditions associated with the grants.

Earlier this year, three young researchers at the Faculty of Science in Aarhus were awarded so-called Starting Grants by the European Research Council. These are five-year grants intended to help younger, talented scientists to get established as research managers.

Of the six research grants awarded to Denmark until now, five have actually gone to employees at the University of Aarhus – much to the satisfaction of Rector Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen.

“On behalf of the recipients, I am very proud. These research grants are very prestigious, and awarded in stiff competition with researchers from all over the world. The University of Aarhus has done really well, and the great result shows quite clearly that science is thriving in Aarhus,” he says.

However, even though the University of Aarhus has done well, it is disappointing – according to Jens Rostrup-Nielsen, Director of R&D at Haldor Topsoe and ERC member – that Denmark did not receive more than six research grants.

“The University of Aarhus has done well, possibly because it has ambitions of achieving success on the international scene. However, if you compare Denmark with countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, we’ve done poorly up until now. This is possibly because we don’t seem to give priority to top European research – not even politically,” he says and emphasises that these awards are so highly prized in a number of European countries that the recipients are personally congratulated by heads of government.
Later this year, the ERC will award research grants in the areas of science and the humanities, the life sciences (health sciences, food research, biology and molecular biology) and interdisciplinary projects.

University of Aarhus recipients of ERC research grants

Advanced Grants in Physical Sciences and Engineering
Professor Flemming Besenbacher, dr.scient , and his group are internationally leading researchers in nanoscience and particularly the study of physical and chemical processes on surfaces. They will use the ERC grant to develop the next generation of scanning probe microscopes, which are unique and have an incredible resolution capacity that makes it possible to study physical, chemical and biological processes between individual atoms and molecules on surfaces.
Contact: tel. +45 8942 3604, mobile +45 2338 2204, e-mail

Professor Ib Madsen, PhD, is one of the leading researchers in the world in the field of basic mathematical sciences, and has contributed to developing a number of theories within the area of geometry related to the string theory in physics. After close to 40 years of employment at the University of Aarhus, Professor Madsen is moving to the University of Copenhagen on 1 September, where he will continue his research at the Department of Mathematical Sciences.
Contact: tel. +45 8942 3451, e-mail

Starting Grants
Awarded in June

Associate Professor Liv Hornekær, PhD, Department of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded DKK 11 million (approximately EUR 1.5 million) for a project that aims to test a completely new method of storing hydrogen.
Contact: tel. +45 8942 5544, mobile +45 6166 3133, e-mail

Associate Professor Klaus Ostermann, PhD, Department of Computer Science, received DKK 10 million (approximately EUR 1.3 million) from ERC. His aim is to design a scalable programming language that enables the programmer to develop new domain-specific programs.
Contact: tel. +45 8942 5672, e-mail

Associate Professor Søren Fournais, PhD, Department of Mathematical Sciences, received DKK 5.6 million (approximately EUR 750,000) from ERC. He conducts research into mathematical questions within superconductivity and Bose-Einstein condensation.
Contact: tel. +45 8942 3391, e-mail

Briefly about ERC

The European Research Council (ERC) is an initiative that forms part of the European Union’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). It was set up by the European Commission in February 2007 to support frontier research. Unlike other EU-supported research, where the research areas are politically decided and are more application-oriented, the ERC research areas are defined by the scientists themselves. The ERC’s total budget amounts to EUR 7.5 billion (2007–2013).

The Research Council consists of an independent scientific council and an administrative body that carries out tasks for the European Commission. The aim is to promote top-quality science in the EU by supporting and motivating the most talented and really innovative scientists, researchers and engineers, who are encouraged to submit their proposals for projects in all research disciplines.

More information:

Rector Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen, University of Aarhus, tel. +45 8942 1141, mobile +45 2338 2126

Jens Rostrup-Nielsen, Director of R&D, Haldor Topsoe, and ERC member, tel. +45 4527 2000

Dean Erik Meineche Schmidt, Faculty of Science, University of Aarhus, tel. +45 8942 3376, mobile +45 2338 2376, e-mail

Anders Correll, Rectorate Publicity Manager, University of Aarhus, mobile +45 2899 2235, e-mail