A historic success of our research as CU researcher Michal Májek wins a prestigious ERC grant

Bratislava, 27 February 2023: Comenius University Bratislava is the first university in Slovakia to receive a grant from the European Research Council, worth 1.55 million euros. The grant was awarded to young researcher Michal Májek from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Comenius University to research chemical catalysis using piezoelectric materials. In the past, only one male and one female researcher from the Slovak Academy of Sciences received a similar grant.

27. 02. 2023 12.16 hod.
By: CU External Relations Office

The CAPELE project focuses on using mechanical energy to activate organic molecules. The goal is to use a new method of activating molecules using piezoelectric catalysts in the search for new reactions. The project is part of basic research but it might have potential practical applications in the synthesis of medicinal substances or in materials science. This grant opens a new chapter of Slovak research.

"I believe that we will succeed in developing new reactions that can be interesting both as basic research, but also in terms of their practical applications. I will certainly involve my students in the project, because I think that working at a research university must include training new scientific talent." says the author of the project Michal Májek from Comenius University.

Slovak scientists have an extremely low success rate when applying for the most prestigious research grants in Europe. Only three such grants have been awarded to Slovaks so far, twice to male researchers and once to a female researcher. Developing a project is challenging and requires months of preparation, a lot of support from colleagues, and the cooperation of the national ERC contact. Zuzana Reptová from the Center for Scientific and Technical Information of the Slovak Republic is this contact and she assists Slovak researchers with the preparation of projects for the ERC, organises trainings and runs practice interviews.

"Michal Májek faced the difficult challenge of designing research that was sufficiently ambitious and at the same time had the potential to extend the boundaries of human knowledge. He also had to show that his project was feasible - something nobody was able to do so far," explains Zuzana Reptová.

The ERC is an unprecedented research funding ecosystem: it supports top researchers in their pursuit of knowledge, hoping that they will find answers to open questions of science and push the boundaries of human knowledge. The only selection criteria are excellence of the research goal, and the profile of the researcher. Top researchers from all around the world assess the applications in a demanding, two-round evaluation.

"Obtaining the first ERC grant at Comenius University is great news for our university and an important signal to other universities that it can be done. It is an immense success, we are proud of our Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mr. Michal Májek. We, the management of the university, strive to create conditions that will enable other similar successes in the nearest future." responds CU rector Marek Števček.