The first winners of the European Commission's new Marie Curie Prize for outstanding achievement in research were announced on 5 November, at the occasion of the Cyprus Presidency Conference in Nicosia, Cyprus.
The competition differentiates three categories: “Communicating Science”, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” and “Promising Research Talent.” Dr Claire Belcher from the United Kingdom, won the first of them, with her studies on ancient natural fires and their consequences for plant and animal life.
“Innovation and Entrepreneurship” prize was for Dr Sarit Sivan from Israel. She was selected for her innovative work on materials that can restore the biomechanical function of degenerate discs in spinal columns.
Greek Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis, was honoured in the 'Promising Research Talent' category, after he traced the spread of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) around the globe, a path that was unknown until now.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, which presented each scientist with a trophy at the ceremony, explained that the award was created to “highlight the excellence and talent of Europe's best young researchers.”
“It is vital that we continue to invest strongly in European research, which contributes to solving great societal challenges in areas such as health and the environment, and which is also important for the European economy”, she stated.
Vassiliou also expressed her satisfaction after two of the three prizes were given to women. “Attracting more women to scientific careers is a priority for the European Commission”, she said.
Marie Curie Actions (MCA) have supported more than 65 000 researchers of nearly 130 different nationalities since the programme's launch in 1996. The conference at Nicosia is focused on the future of these actions and also of Horizon 2020, the Commission's proposed €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation.
The 7th Research Framework Programme will finish at the end of 2013 and, according to the commissioner, “it is the perfect time to see where we can improve the programme to maximise its contribution to growth and jobs.”
In addition, she explained that the Commission has proposed to increase the amount allocated for the MCA to €5.75 billion in the period 2014-2020, and that negotiations between the Council and European Parliament are taking place.
Both current and former fellows of MCA, which connects research, education and innovation, had the opportunity to participate in this year's contest. Applications are evaluated by an independent panel of renowned European and international scientists; they base their evaluations on the scientific quality and its possible impact on European competitiveness.
The jury was composed by prominent academics, scientists and experts, included Professor Pierre Joliot, Professor Christopher Pissarides, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics, and Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Member of the European Parliament.
More details about the winners here.
FAQs on Marie Curie Actions here.