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The perfect network and training opportunity

Information on projects funded by Marie Curie Research Training Networks can be found using the "Marie Curie Funding Opportunities Search Tool" on CORDIS.


neutralpro researchersImproving mobility

The NeuralPro network was set up in October 2000 to offer training opportunities to young post-graduate and pre-doctoral researchers working in the field of rehabilitation medicine. The focus is on electro-physiological research to assist in the rehabilitation and movement of patients who have suffered damage to their central nervous system from serious trama or disease. “By combining the results of biological and electro-technical research, it’s possible to make small devices which can be implanted into a patient’s leg to stimulate muscles,” explains network coordinator, Wilbert Pontenagel from the University of Twente.

At any one time, up to 20 European researchers have the opportunity to participate in independent, high-quality research with acknowledged experts in the engineering, biological, medical and industrial spheres. Dr. Pontenagel believes the training experience abroad is “extremely motivating” for these researchers, particularly because of its multidisciplinary and networking approach. “Fellows must learn to co-operate with a diverse range of people from different academic backgrounds. The mix of countries taking part allows them to compare whether a particular technical solution can be accepted throughout the EU. They are also trained in communicating with patients and in dealing with their reactions to research ideas.”

Ten partners from the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Northern Ireland, Germany, Slovenia, the UK and Belgium are involved in the network, which brings together manufacturers, universities, research centres and users around a single R&D objective. The involvement of industry is particularly important and is something Dr. Potenagel believes will prove invaluable to the researchers’ future careers. “Before these young researchers leave our network, they will have an important decision to make – either to continue with an academic career or to enter the business world.” In an effort to help them decide, the network is planning a special training course on entrepreneurship at their next general meeting in April.

Website: http://www.utwente.nl/bmti/neuralpro/index.htm


Dr. Martin HaehneltAdding up to research success

The Mathematics and the Brain Research Training Network comprises six laboratories in the UK, France, Belgium Austria and Italy, all taking part in ground-breaking research to discover which brain systems are involved in doing everyday numerical tasks like adding, subtracting, multiplying and estimating. "Nobody is doing anything like this research elsewhere in the world," explains network coordinator, Professor Brian Butterworth from University College London. "My guess is that if our work was not so exciting, we might well have lost some of our researchers to labs in the United States."

Professor Butterworth believes the RTN idea is "very attractive" to researchers. "The general standard of the 10 pre- and post-doc researchers we've employed is very high. The big advantage for researchers working in the network is that it's just such fun. There's about 30 to 40 people working in the various labs on the project and this allows us to share findings, techniques, methodologies, and technologies."

Website: http://www.nesc.ucl.ac.be/mp/neuromath/NeuroMath_homepage.htm


Jeannette Wienke Reaching a higher level of co-operation

The ETA Solar Cell Network takes the training of its six Marie Curie researchers very seriously, so much so that it actually hired an external project consultant to advise on the personal training aspects of their time spent working abroad. “One of the most important things the training teaches the researchers is how to co-operate with other scientists within a network,” explains network coordinator, Dr. Jeannette Wienke from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands. “This is a big step for many physicists and chemists because by nature they are quite individual and their work up until now has kept them quite isolated. The researchers are finding out that you can reach a higher quality level if you co-operate and if you have information exchange with other partners.”

The ETA Network, made up of research institutes in Estonia, the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Belgium and Sweden, was set up in September 2000 and will run for four years. The aim of the research project is to develop a new type of solar cell using inorganic compounds. The new cell, which Dr. Wienke hopes will be ready in 2004, will be cheaper to produce than traditional panels and will eventually be used in the production of solar energy.

Website: http://www.elis.rug.ac.be/~grasso/eta_solar_cell/


Dr. Martin Haehnelt Examining the building blocks of our universe

Dr. Martin Haehnelt, a German scientist working at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the UK, is coordinator of a Marie Curie Research Training Network on the Physics of the Intergalactic Medium. Eight research institutes from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Israel are involved in the network, set up to study the gases that sit in between galaxies causing other galaxies to form.

Over the four years of the network, EU funding allows the institutes to hire 20 young researchers to take part in this cutting-edge research and to organise numerous study visits and meetings between the institutes. “I’ve a very positive feeling about the RTN. I think it’s a very valuable experience for the young researchers involved. It gives them the chance to develop collaborations outside their own institute at an early stage in their career. As much of astronomical research is driven by international collaborations, I think going abroad is essential.” So far the network research has resulted in 70 research articles which have either been published in the major astronomy journals in Europe or are due for publication.

Website: http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~rtnigm/


Training in new fields of research

Michael UdvardiDr. Michael Udvardi from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, coordinates a network of nine research teams from seven Member States (Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands) providing training in the new, multidisciplinary research field of functional genomics. The group is investigating the molecular and genetic basis of mutualistic symbioses (interactions between plants and soil microbes) that provide legumes, such as Lotus japonicus, with nutrients for growth. These symbioses are key to sustainable agriculture. Lotus japonicus"Commission funding allowed us to hire 11 postdoctoral fellow or PhD students. The funding has been very valuable in two ways: providing training in this new area of research, and in bringing specialised groups together that weren't collaborating before. The funding has been used for various activities including enabling trainees to spend time in a second network lab, and organising three one-week workshops where trainees can learn a new technology and network with other group members."

Website: http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de/lotus/index-e.html



Professor Ilkka HanskiNew staffing opportunity

Professor Ilkka Hanski of the Department of Ecology and Systematics at Helsinki University coordinates a network of seven universities looking at the effect of habitat loss and fragmentation on populations of animals and plants. "RTN support gave us the chance to hire eight post-doctoral researchers, who spend at least two months of their one- or two-year period in one of the other labs in the network. We were able to hold five intensive workshops and a ten-day training course, as well as our annual meetings," he says.

Website: http://www.helsinki.fi/science/fragland/


Susann RohwedderUpdating skills

Susann Rohwedder of the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London is very enthusiastic about the programme. Looking back on her four years in a network analysing the structure of household saving and wealth, she says: "One of the great benefits is that as a young researcher you have the opportunity to attend regular conferences with some of the global hotshots in your field. Moreover, you get the chance to present your ideas to them at a much earlier stage than would otherwise happen. so you build up contacts which stay with you for the rest of your research career."


Professor Rolf ReedA European training solution

Professor Rolf Reed from Bergen University in Norway is enthusiastic about his Research Training Network on fluid exchange. Perhaps the strongest point about the network he coordinates is that it means that European researchers can meet regularly without having to cross the Atlantic. "Before we started the network, we would only meet the sort of people we wanted to meet at conferences in the United States," he says.

last update: 28-01-2005