14 DEC 2018

The ERC Synergy Grant, a European grant of excellence

The Extreme-scale project Mathematically-based Computational Chemistry (EMC2), led by Eric Cancès1, Laura Grigori2, Yvon Maday3 and Jean-Philip Piquemal4, won the ERC Synergy Grant 2018 call for projects, and is among the 27 winners of these highly coveted funding grants.

Listed as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, the ERC Synergy grant finances exploratory research projects on an innovative theme over a period of six years for a budget of approximately 10 million euros. 

Intended for teams of two to four researchers, this grant supports scientists who want to work together, tackling ambitious research problems at the frontiers of knowledge and bringing together complementary skills, disciplines and resources.

The ERC Synergy Grant call for projects is particularly competitive and rewards projects of excellence that jointly address complex and innovative research topics with a fundamentally collaborative dimension.

The Extreme-scale Mathematically-based Computational Chemistry project (EMC2)

The ambition of the EMC2 project is to achieve scientific breakthroughs in the field of molecular simulation by bringing together the expertise of a multidisciplinary community at the interfaces of mathematics, chemistry, physics and computer science.

Molecular simulation is widely used in the fields of theoretical, experimental and industrial chemistry and physics, molecular biology, pharmacology, electronics, materials science and energy production and storage. It enables the study of molecular systems ranging from small chemical systems to large molecules and biological materials. It encompasses all the theoretical methods and calculation techniques (from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics) used to model the behavior of molecules. Essential to the development of engineering at the atomic scale, it will ultimately provide a new way to design for rational products, such as drugs or certain materials.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to significantly increase the efficiency of this molecular simulation by working with experts in chemistry, physics, applied mathematics and computer science, modeling, numerical methods and their practical implementation (supercomputers) to model biological systems of several hundred million atoms (cell) or to increase the fineness of the descriptions of electronic structures of complex molecules.
While collaboration between mathematics, computer science and chemistry are still underdeveloped in the world, the EMC2 project is an outstanding example of the convergence of these transversal skills. This project amplifies and magnifies the initial collaboration effort between researchers from different disciplines started six years ago in the Labex Calsimlab*. The challenge is to design the molecular simulation software of tomorrow that is capable of using all the resources promised by new and future generations of supercomputers. These researchers have learned to understand each other in order to move faster and more accurately together towards their common goal.

Under the leadership of the four project leaders, EMC2 is an example of transversal research backed by scientific excellence, which perfectly illustrates the success of Sorbonne University as a world-class multidisciplinary university in collaboration with privileged partner institutions such as Inria and the École des Ponts ParisTech.

See the interview of the EMC2 project leaders

* The labex Calsimlab is managed by the Institute of Sciences of Computation and Data of Sorbonne University.

1 Eric Cancès: Professor at the École des Ponts ParisTech, director of CERMICS at the École des Ponts ParisTech, member of the MATHERIALS project team, an Inria/ENPC joint team

2 Laura Grigori: Inria Research Director, Project Leader of Alpines, an Inria/Sorbonne University Joint Team and member of Inria Paris and the Jacques-Louis Lions laboratory (Sorbonne University/Paris Diderot/CNRS)

3 Yvon Maday: Professor at Sorbonne University, member of the Institut Universitaire de France, mathematician at the Jacques-Louis Lions laboratory (Sorbonne University/Paris Diderot/CNRS) and director of the Tremplin Carnot Smiles Institute

4 Jean-Philip Piquemal: Professor at Sorbonne University, member of the Institut Universitaire de France, chemist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Chemistry (Sorbonne University/CNRS) and director of the Paris Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry (Sorbonne University/CNRS)