The ERC Awards more than Euro 10mln in Grants to Bocconi Research

The ERC Awards more than Euro 10mln in Grants to Bocconi Research


Bocconi was awarded with an unprecedented 7 ERC Starting Grants by the European Research Council, which today announced the recipients of funding reserved for researchers in the initial stage of their careers. One more Grant was won by a researcher who applied with his previous university, but took office as a Bocconi Assistant Professor on 1 September, 2023. Total Bocconi funding amounts to €10.5mln (€11.94mln considering the grant which is being moved to Boconi). This extraordinary achievement testifies to Bocconi’s excellence in academic research. The highly competitive nature of these grants makes securing one a success in itself, considering that only about 15% of proposals are approved for funding. Moreover, having received multiple ERC Starting Grants opens up many opportunities to build and lead dynamic research teams, fostering collaboration and attracting top-notch talent.
Including the latest, ERC Grants won by Bocconi total 61.
ERC Starting Grants are for researchers with 2-7 years of experience since completing a PhD, a very promising scientific track record, and an excellent research proposal. For researchers in the later stages of their careers, ERC provides Consolidator Grants and Advanced Grants.

“Such a high number of grants shows that Bocconi has reached a critical mass, whereby research quality is combined with quantity,” Bocconi Rector Francesco Billari said. “We do not record individual cases of success in obtaining competitive European funding, but we reap the benefits of a systematic approach: the University is able to support young researchers who accept the risk of a challenging path such as preparing these kinds of applications for projects with a medium- to long-term scope. When they are successful, and fortunately this is increasingly the case, these are experiences that change the research trajectory of a young academic. Finally, as a social scientist, I would like to emphasize that the vast majority of projects use data-driven methodologies to address issues of great interest to policy makers and society.”

Luca Braghieri’s ERC project SOME (Social Media: Measuring Effects and Mitigating Downsides) has two main objectives: firstly, to address gaps in our understanding of how social media affect individuals and society, and secondly, to assess the effectiveness of interventions to counteract the negative aspects of social media. The overarching goal is to generate new scientific knowledge about the use and impact of social media, identify potential areas for policy interventions, and evaluate practical solutions to mitigate downsides.
Stereotypes are often at the origin of biased behavior and can contribute to the widening of socioeconomic inequalities in diverse societies. SOFIA (Stereotypes and Opportunities: Fostering Interactions and Awareness) is a project by Michela Carlana which aims to study the formation of stereotypes and test policies designed to mitigate educational inequalities, building on insights from behavioral economics and machine learning techniques.
Millions of people are pushed into extreme poverty due to limited access to essential public services in low-income countries. DIGIDEV (Digitalization of Public Service Delivery and Inclusive Development), the project led by Erika Deserranno, aims to advance our understanding of the drivers of success or failure of digitalization in the public sectors of developing countries, and the ways digital technologies can be harnessed to improve the efficiency and inclusion of public service delivery, thereby producing more robust and inclusive economic growth.
Daniele Durante’s project NEMESIS (sociogeNEsis of criMinal nEtworks: reconStruction, dIscovery and diSruption), combines Statistics and Social Sciences to address key challenges in understanding and combating modern criminal networks. It views current barriers in data incompleteness and complexity not as hindrances but as valuable resources to expand research and policies. By recognizing the presence of structure underlying missing data and of unexplored knowledge behind complex interactions among criminals, the project develops innovative modeling perspectives in criminal network analysis. This vision is expected to revolutionize current approaches to reconstructing, analyzing and disrupting criminal networks while creating opportunities to expand data resources, social theories and law-enforcement policies. 
Nicola Limodio’s project FINDEV (Financial Institutions and Development) comprises three empirical sub-projects studying how financial institutions in low and middle-income countries can promote development. The first project investigates the frictions in financial regulation in Africa, exploring ethnic banking and the role of central bank independence. The second project studies the impact of multiculturalism and conflict on the internal organization of Ethiopian bank branches and lending markets. Lastly, the third project focuses on market incompleteness and non-performing loans in China, analyzing the introduction of Asset Management Companies and their effects. The ultimate goal is to enhance our understanding of these frictions and inform policies that promote development and effective financial regulation in these regions.
One of the building blocks of modern cryptography is program obfuscation. Simply put, algorithms should be difficult to reverse-engineer and, to this end, the code of cryptographic algorithms is made complex and hard to follow. Currently used obfuscation techniques, though, won’t long resist the advent of quantum computing. Giulio Malavolta, with his ObfusQation (Code Obfuscation in a Quantum World) project wants, on the one hand, to develop new obfuscation techniques able to resist attacks brought about by quantum algorithms and, on the other, to develop tools able to obfuscate quantum algorithms.
Debora Nozza is the leader of PERSONAE (Personalized and Subjective approaches to Natural Language Processing), a project that aims to make language technologies (within Natural Language Processing or NLP) accessible and useful for everyone. The project aims to improve research on NLP tasks that are highly subjective, such as offensive language detection and sentiment and emotion analysis, by developing a new field called Personal NLP, an entirely new area of research with the goal of building NLP models that consider individual perspectives. This new research area will explore subjectivity in text from the perspective of the individual as a recipient of information, making people active actors in the creation of language technologies instead of mere recipients. This will enable a more personalized and effective approach to the design of NLP models, resulting in better models overall.
Scott Williamson has been granted funding for DEVAL (Democratic Values and Authoritarian Legitimacy), a project that will examine popular attitudes toward democracy in a moment of global democratic decline. It will proceed by advancing knowledge of how people understand and support democracy, and how authoritarian political leaders manipulate this popular support for democratic values to increase their political legitimacy. By designing new methods to identify how people understand democracy and how people trade democracy off against other political, social, and economic outcomes, DEVAL will develop groundbreaking advances in measuring support for democracy. DEVAL will also advance theoretical and empirical knowledge of the strategies authoritarian leaders use to strengthen their legitimacy by leveraging democratic values.

by Weiwei Chen, Andrea Costa, Fabio Todesco
Bocconi Knowledge newsletter


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