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Four researchers associated to UPF receive 2019 ERC Advanced Grants totalling nearly 7,5 million euros

Four researchers associated to UPF receive 2019 ERC Advanced Grants totalling nearly 7,5 million euros

The projects led by Hector Geffner and Jan Eeckhout, who are to conduct them at the departments of Information and Communication Technologies and Business and Economics, respectively, and by Jordi Galí (CREI) and Ben Lehner (CRG) have obtained funding from the European Research Council.

31.03.2020

Imatge inicial

Today, 31 March, the ERC (European Research Council) announced the results of the 2019 call for ERC Advanced Grants, awarded to 184 leading researchers in their respective fields of knowledge, in the framework of the Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation programme, who will receive a total of 450 million euros.

The selected researchers are of 26 different nationalities and will carry out their projects over the next five years at research institutes in some twenty European Union countries with the support of grants of up to 2.5 million euros (exceptionally 3.5 million).

Among the 184 researchers who have been selected from the 1,881 applications submitted in the various fields of knowledge (distributed across the areas of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Life Sciences and Social Sciences and Humanities), are four researchers associated to UPF: Hector GeffnerJan EeckhoutJordi Galí and Ben Lehner.

Hector Geffner, ICREA-UPF research professor with the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC), is to receive almost 2.5 million euros for a project that focuses on artificial intelligence; Jan Eeckhout, ICREA-UPF research professor with the Department of Economics and Business, will be getting a grant of approximately 1.5 million euros for a study on the power of the market and macroeconomic trends.

Complete the grants the full professor of Foundations of Economic Analysis, Jordi Galí, a researcher at the Research Centre for International Economics (CREI-UPF), will receive 925,000 euros to analyse the relationship between heterogeneity, monetary policy and economic fluctuations, and Ben Lehner, ICREA professor and leader of the Genetic Systems Lab, at the CRG, which will receive a grant of 2,5 million euros to advance research on the 3D structure of proteins.

UPF, among the institutions to receive the most subsidies in Spain

Pompeu Fabra University, with two selected projects (four, if we count CREI and CRG, two research centres participated in by the University), is the Spanish institution to have obtained the most ERC Advanced Grants, along with the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), also with two grants. Spain has won a total of 14 grants, behind Germany (35), the UK (34), France (21), Switzerland (21) and is tied with the Netherlands.

At the presentation of the results of the call, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said that “Europe’s future depends on science and research. The crisis we face today reminds us how important it is to listen to scientific advice, and to allow the research community to help us prepare for the challenges of the future”.

From Data-based to Model-based Artificial Intelligence

Hector Geffner, ICREA-UPF researcher with the DTIC and member of the Research Group on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML), has received an ERC Advanced Grant for the project “From Data-based to Model-based AI: Representation Learning for Planning (RLeap)”.

The ability to construct first-order symbolic representations and use them for expressing, communicating, achieving, and recognizing goals is a main component of human intelligence and a fundamental, open research problem in AI.

"The success of RLeap requires the development of radically new ideas and methods that will build on those of a number of related areas".

The project RLeap is aimed at achieving an integration of learners and solvers in the context of planning by addressing and solving the problem of learning first-order planning representations from raw  perceptions alone without using any rior symbolic knowledge.The  ability to construct first-order symbolic representations and using them for expressing, communicating, achieving, and recognizing goals is a main component of human intelligence and a fundamental, open research problem in AI. 

"The success of RLeap requires the development of radically new ideas and methods that will build on those of a number of related areas that include planning, earning, knowledge representation, combinatorial optimization and SAT" Hector Geffner states. The approach to be pursued is based on a clear separation between learning the symbolic representations themselves, that is cast as a combinatorial optimization problem, and learning the interpretations of those representations, that is cast as a supervised learning problem from targets obtained from the first part.

The power of the market and macroeconomic trends

Jan Eeckhout, ICREA-UPF research professor with the Department of Economics and Business at UPF, CREI-UPF researcher and research professor at the Barcelona GSE, has been awarded his third ERC grant (one Starting and two Advanced Grants). Titled “Market Power and Secular Macroeconomic Trends (MarketPower)”, Jan Eeckhout will carry out his research project over five years, linked to the Department of Economics and Business at UPF.

“In my research I examine whether the increase in marketpower has caused these profound macroeconomic changes”.

In the last four decades, there have been several (long-term) secular trends in the world’s advanced economies: wage inequality has increased significantly, the dynamism of the job market and new startups have declined, the share of employment in total production has fallen, and low-skilled wages have stagnated. There has also been a reallocation of production from small to large companies and a sharp increase in the power of the market: companies set higher prices, profit indices are higher and the economies of scale are increasing.

The aim of the research project is to find economic mechanisms that help to understand this fundamental transformation and its implications for efficiency and wellbeing. “In this project, I examine whether these trends are related. Specifically, I examine whether  the increase in marketpower has caused these profound macroeconomic changes”, Jan Eeckhout affirms. To achieve this, he will be investigating both the causes of the increased marketpower and its macroeconomic consequences.

Heterogeneity, monetary policy and economic fluctuations

Jordi Galí, full professor of Foundations of Economic Analysis at the Department of Economics and Business at UPF, researcher at the Research Centre for International Economics (CREI-UPF) and research professor at the Barcelona GSE, has been awarded his third ERC Advanced Grant (following the ones he was awarded in 2008 and 2013).

“My research will review issues such as the optimal design of monetary policy, the benefits of wage flexibility and the stabilizing role of fiscal policies and income control”.

The research project titled “Heterogeneity, Monetary Policy and Economic Fluctuations (HEMPEF)” seeks to gain further knowledge about the implications of heterogeneity (divergence) in monetary policy.  It will be carried out by Jordi Galí (as principal investigator, linked to the CREI), together with Davide Debortoli, a Ramon y Cajal fellow with the Department of Economics and Business.

Some of its main goals will be to develop a general framework for reassessing the role of the heterogeneity of aggregate economic fluctuations, in both macro models and in real economies; and review the extent to which the current new Keynesian framework, widely used by researchers and central banks must be modified for the analysis of these fluctuations and their interaction with monetary policy, introducing elements of heterogeneity. “Based on these new models, my research will review some key issues of macroeconomic theory, including the optimal design of monetary policy, the benefits of wage flexibility and the stabilizing role of fiscal policies and income control” Jordi Galí states.

A project to advance research on the 3D structure of proteins

Ben Lehner, ICREA professor and leader of the Genetic Systems Laboratory, at the CRG, and coordinator of the Sytems Biology Programme, has been awarded his third ERC Grant.

With this latest grant, Lehner will develop the project “Determining in vivo protein structures and understanding genetic interactions using deep mutagenesis (MUTANOMICS)" to advance research on the 3D structure of proteins.

The structure of macromolecules, although poorly understood, is known to be closely linked to their functions. "To overcome the limitations of available technologies, my group has developed a new method to obtain data on the 3D structure of proteins by measuring the activity of various genetic mutations of molecules" Ben Lehner affirms.

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