Professors Mahsa Shoaran and Romain Fleury awarded ERC Starting Grant

© 2021 EPFL

© 2021 EPFL

Prof. Mahsa Shoaran and Prof. Romain Fleury, from the institute of Electrical and Micro Engineering (IEM) at the School of Engineering have been awarded Starting Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). Due to the non-association of Switzerland to Horizon Europe, their projects will be financed by Switzerland (SERI).

Prof. Mahsa Shoaran, head of the Integrated Neurotechnologies Laboratory (INL), received the grant for her project “SAND: Smart and Autonomous Neurostimulation Devices for Chronic Neurological Disorder”.

Prof. Romain Fleury, head of the Laboratory of Wave Engineering (LWE), was awarded the grant for his project “ARTISTE”.

About SAND:

Brain disorders pose a major concern worldwide, urging the need to explore new therapies. Today, brain stimulation is increasingly used to target dysfunctional brain circuits that cause neurological or psychiatric symptoms. However, current neurostimulation devices are too simplistic, predominantly operate in open loop with a small number of channels and a bulky design, leading to limited efficacy and long-term side effects. There is an urgent need for smart and chronically viable neurostimulation devices for a wide range of neurological disorders.
SAND aims to address the key technological barriers that hinder the realization of effective neurostimulation therapies for brain disorders. Specifically, by combining artificial intelligence (AI) with implantable neurotechnology, we will design a first-of-its-kind neural interface microchip, able to process high-density neural recordings in real-time using on-chip machine learning and deliver adaptive stimulation to suppress symptoms. With breakthrough innovations in circuit and algorithm design, SAND will enable a significant reduction in power (>10×) and area (>10×) per channel compared to state-of-the-art closed-loop systems.
Notably, SAND will introduce an enabling platform technology for effective bidirectional interfacing with the brain while addressing the deficiencies of the existing systems, namely: 1) low-efficacy, open-loop operation; 2) limited channel count, high power consumption, and size limitations; 3) the need for frequent recalibration sessions to maintain performance. Furthermore, the complex and time-varying nature of neurological disorders requires solutions beyond conventional closed-loop systems with a single pre- defined biomarker. Optimized control of stimulation in closed-loop would improve the therapy outcome, minimize side effects, and enable efficient disease control, with far-reaching implications for a wide range of neurological disorders.


The ARTISTE project aims at demonstrating a disruptive new class of microwave components with unprecedented immunity to fabrication tolerances, impedance mismatch, geometrical imperfections, or distributed parametric disorder. To reach this level of resilience, I will leverage the physics of non-reciprocity and of anomalous Floquet topological insulators, building artificial non-reciprocal wave networks that exhibit a global property guaranteeing their functionality and efficient reconfigurability. By combining theory, finite-element simulations, additive manufacturing, and precision microwave experiments, I will establish anomalous nonreciprocal topological scattering networks as a new framework for the design of backscattering-immune components such as waveguides, filters, multiplexers, and antennas. By initiating the first applications of topological physics in telecommunication systems, ARTISTE will have ground-breaking impact in microwave design for efficient terrestrial or satellite communication systems.

The ERC Starting Grants are given each year to researchers of any nationality and in any field of research with 2-7 years of research experience after the completion of their PhD and who show a promising scientific track record, and offer an excellent research proposal. Each Starting Grant can be up to €1.5 million given over a period of five years.