Professor Vittal Katikireddi awarded £1.3m in prestigious ERC Starting Grant

Published: 3 September 2020

Public health doctor, Professor Vittal Katikireddi has been awarded more than £1.3m in a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.

Published 3rd September 2020

Public health doctor, Prof Vittal Katikireddi has been awarded more than £1.3m in a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.

Based at the University of Glasgow’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Prof Katikireddi was granted the award as part of a €677m round of funding announced today by the ERC. The grants are part of the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme, Horizon 2020.

The £1.3m will be used to establish Health Equity of Economic Determinants (HEED): Developing a Pan-European microsimulation model – a five year study starting in January 2021, which will look at the impacts of taxation and social security policies on population health and mortality across Europe.

The study will use a range of real world data as well as computer modelling, to understand and map the potential impacts of policy decisions on population health and wellbeing.

Four times as many people die early in the most deprived areas of Scotland than the least deprived. Income and welfare policies are likely to play a major role. This grant will allow Prof Katikireddi and his team to develop a computer model, drawing on the most robust available data, to predict what the impact of different government policies across Europe on health inequalities is likely to be. The work will span several disciplines, integrating perspectives from epidemiology, public health, economics, statistics, computer modelling and social policy.

Prof Katikireddi said: “I am delighted that we have been successful in our ERC Starting Grant. Ultimately, there is a need to move from ‘understanding the problem’ to ‘what should we do’ to reducing health inequalities through effective government policies. Addressing this gap is at the heart of this research.

"For too long, the health implications of specific economic policies have been poorly understood. Yet, we know that clearly articulating the health implications of decisions can help policymakers pursue evidence-informed policies.  We hope that by creating the HEED model we will have created a tool that can answer many of these questions, and thereby help governments to tackle the unfair burden of disease and death amongst socially disadvantaged people in societies.”

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “With European Research Council grants, the EU is leveraging the talent and curiosity of some of the best young researchers in Europe. Their ideas are set to break fresh ground and open new ways to deal with pressing challenges in the areas of health, energy and digital technologies, as well as many other fields. Our ambition to effectively tackle current and future crises depends on our strong will to continuously and increasingly support top research at the frontiers of our knowledge.”

President of the European Research Council (ERC), Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: “The present health crisis showed that despite spectacular progress in research over the past decades, there still remain plenty of unsolved scientific mysteries, as well as lessons to be learnt from the past. Therefore, the best strategy to tackle it is to enable some of the brightest minds to pursue their most innovative ideas, in order to create opportunities for serendipitous discoveries. This is what the European Research Council is for. It’s clear that, if Europe is to be competitive globally, it needs to give substantial support to the next generation of researchers as these ERC Starting Grants do, and to invest much more in top blue sky research.”

The ERC Starting Grant grantees are a diverse group with 40 different nationalities. Amongst the winners, 20 researchers are moving to Europe from further afield thanks to the funding. The new grantees will be based in 25 countries across Europe, with Germany (88 grants), the UK (62), the Netherlands (42) and France (38) as top locations. Some 13% of applications were selected for funding in this round.

These Starting Grants will create an estimated 2,500 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff at the host institutions.

First published: 3 September 2020

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