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ERC Consolidator grants for research on gig economy, nano carriers and learning a second language

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Andrea Hermann, Daniela Wilson and Kristin Lemhöfer a Consolidator Grant of two million euros each so they can set up a new research project.

Andrea Herrmann, Institute for Management Research

The ‘gig economy’, where workers are hired through internet platforms to complete a one-time service task (a ‘gig’), is growing into a major labour market. Yet, we still lack a theory of how it develops. Its online part, including tasks to be completed at the computer (e.g. programming or translations), constitutes the first truly global labour market. Faced with unprecedented competition, most gig workers offer their services at low rates that do not allow for insurances or building up pensions. Several governments therefore consider making social security contributions compulsory. But can regulation at the national level protect workers in online markets, or will the demand for online gigs simply relocate to low-wage, low-protection economies?

Based on an interdisciplinary framework of theories on varieties-of-capitalism, innovation systems, and entrepreneurial ecosystems, Herrmann proposes a new institutional theory on ‘mirror-image specialization’: she hypothesizes that education and labour-market institutions lead requesters, platforms, and providers of online gig work to specialize in hiring, transacting, and offering those skills that are least available in their home labour markets. This leads to specialization patterns in a country’s online gig economy opposite to those in its traditional labour market. In her study, Herrmann willgo beyond the analytical state-of-the-art of one-time studies and analyse panel and time-stamped data to gain over-time insights into how the online gig economy unfolds.

Daniela Wilson, Institute for Molecules and Materials (IMM)

Daniela Wilson and her research group aim to develop synthetic motile assemblies that they term ‘synmotes’ with cilia-like and flagella-like movement. With this, they address the challenge of developing nano carriers with the ability to move, sense and adapt, in order to transport and deliver medicines in specific tissues and cells in the human body. To develop these motile molecules, the researchers use building blocks with pre-programmed functionality. Besides their ability to move directionally, these autonomous complex bio-inspired systems are programmed to sense changes in their environment (the human body) and consequently to adapt to the changes by regulating their speed, shape and behaviour.

Kristin Lemhöfer, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

Learning a second language after early childhood is a challenge, and learners differ not only in how well they rise to this challenge, but presumably also in how they do it. Different learning situations, e.g. learning a language in the classroom versus learning it by immersion, seem likely to involve different acquisition mechanisms as well. However, we know almost nothing about such ‘different routes’ towards learning a second language. Memory research offers a number of accounts that do describe different ways in which our brain stores and remembers information. Kristin Lemhöfer aims to use theories and methods from memory research to investigate the hypothesis that there are several alternative routes in the brain to learning a second language, and that individuals, as well as situations, differ with respect to which of these routes is preferably taken.

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Organizational unit
Systems Chemistry
Economy, Brain, Molecules and materials